Analogy can be a powerful method of getting a point across. Many ancient tales such as Aesop’s Fables found a way to educate the reader while they were being entertained.
Think back to your own childhood – some of the best teachers you had were probably the ones who were able to make learnings come to life through storytelling. This trend continues today and is seen in the business writings of Lencioni where parable replaces dull preaching.
I’ve used the technique a number of times myself in this blog to share my views on project and change management, and I have found that the beauty of the approach is that there is an unlimited number of sources that can be drawn upon for inspiration.
But do we leverage its power effectively in our project interactions?
I’m sure you’ll agree that one of the more challenging facets of project management, even in projectized organizations, is the management of stakeholders who are not positively inclined towards your project.
Normally, when trying to align these stakeholders towards the project’s expected outcomes and approach, it can be tempting to overcome their resistance with analytical or logical presentation of benefits.
While this approach might sway a neutral stakeholder, it won’t usually work on an antagonistic one. If anything, such a direct approach is likely to make them strengthen their position. They will need to feel that you understand where they are coming from and then they need to come to the same understanding as you have without feeling like they are being pushed.
This is where the power of storytelling might help out as you might be able to find the right analogy to establish common ground.
However, there are two prerequisites for this to work.
You need to have taken the time to learn about the stakeholder (as an individual, not as a group!) including an understanding of their needs and values.
You also need to have a broad base of content to draw upon – the more your read, and the more diverse the range of topics you learn about, the easier it will be to find that analogy.
So the next time you are having trouble convincing a tough stakeholder, tell them a story!