When stakeholders don’t do detail

Anyone with passing knowledge of DISC, MBTI or any other personality profile will note some people like decisions, others debate, and yet others details.

  • Dominance–Person places emphasis on accomplishing results, the bottom line, confidence
  • Influence–Person places emphasis on influencing or persuading others, openness, relationships
  • Steadiness–Person places emphasis on cooperation, sincerity, dependability
  • Conscientiousness–Person places emphasis on quality and accuracy, expertise, competency


Because of the above it can be hard to communicate in the right format and style for each audience.

For example it can be difficult to engage if the decisive senior executive approach is to simply ignore the issues and say “..just make it so..” (as if their command is enough to resolve or remove the problems). This is made worse if anything other than acceptance or agreement is likely to damage the relationship and so further undermine communication and trust. The mantra  “only good news” (the sign in Sheryl Sandberg’s former Facebook office) may superficially give the impression everything is OK, but is the type of Wilful Blindness that leads to an inevitable (but in retrospect avoidable) problems later.

Similarly the stakeholder who doesn’t engage, avoids meetings and emails but remains confident in on-going, work-in-progress can be a problem. If tasks are always ‘nearly done’ but never complete then they see themselves as busy and achieving, but the reality is nothing is done / complete and your project, process ror product is simply not ready or going to fail.

Typically in most projects the key issue is the late realisation of the volume of work, the busyness of the people and the lack of resources (competence, capability, drive and desire). To avoid conflict the problem is ignored, but this just makes things worse.

Imagine you expected to run 26 miles in 4 hours and after 3 hours you’ve only run 13 miles. It seems unlikely you’d do the next 13 miles in 1 hour (and still achieve the goal of 4 hours). Let’s be honest if it takes 3 hours to do 13 miles, it is going to take longer than 6 to cover 26 miles. This seems obvious, and yet the assumption in projects is frequently that the failures of the past (people, planning, pace or progress) can all be remedied without address of the fundamental problem, too much to do and an unrealistic goal.

It is time for a difficult conversation…


  • The Leader has to acknowledge and confirm that he/she loves to see constructive conflict to become better and have better decisions.
  • Virtual conflict is obviously more difficult. People experience virtual meetings more as presentations (one way conversations) and next to that you barely see body language. The least you can do is to ensure everyone turns their camera on.
  • If your meeting is boring, it is lacking conflict. So do some checks now and then how the others experience the meeting. Boring? That should be a heads up!
  • In case there was conflict: praise it. It has brought you further.

Taken from the book ‘The five dysfunctions of a Team’

  • Absence of trust. Team members don’t dare to show vulnerability within the group
  • Fear of conflict. The team prefers artificial harmony over constructive passionate debate, while the latter is required to create trust and openess
  • Lack of commitment. Decisions are made, but sincere buy-in for group decisions is missing. This results in ambiguity throughout the organization
  • Avoidance of accountability. Ducking the responsibility to hold each other accountable on agreed behavior. This behavior sets low standards
  • Inattention to results. Team members focus more on personal success, status and ego before team success

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