As in any large project, the team is likely to encounter some stakeholders who are supportive, some who are neutral, and some who are resistant to the project. A typical project adoption curve is shown in Figure 6.2.
Figure 6.2. Project Adoption Curve
The innovators and early adopters are usually supportive of the project and willing to help make it a success. The late adopters are cautious and sometimes wary of the project. However, with the right proof points, they can be converted into supporters over time. Even when they are not supportive of the project, they are usually not against it. The resisters, on the other hand, are the stakeholders who don't like the project for a variety of reasons. Some may not believe in it, whereas others may stand to lose something because of the project. Not only do they not support the project, but some may actively work against it. For example, a shop floor worker responsible for manually checking the barcodes on pallets and cases going out of the facility might see the RFID deployment as a threat to job security. If you can leverage supporters to further the project and convert the resisters into supporters or contain their negative actions, the project is likely to move forward faster. Failure to do so can result in the project not being successful. In the preceding example, the shop floor worker might be educated about RFID and provided options to focus on other activities, hence reducing his anxiety about job security.
How do you handle these different types of stakeholders? By building partnerships with them. The key to success here is to seek out resistance, understand the opposing viewpoint, and find a common ground for constructive engagement. Two-way communication is essential. At the same time, do not use supporters to unduly force the resisters. It is important to note that a stakeholder raising a concern is not necessarily a resister. The team may find out that the shop floor worker in the preceding example has a valid concern about the practicality of the RFID deployment when reading tags on liquid bottles. Addressing such valid concerns will likely make the deployment more successful. The following steps can help convert a resister:
Successful engagement may result in the resisters becoming supporters. In many cases, their insight can alter the course of a project to make it better or more robust. At the same time, you should be cognizant not to spend so much time converting resisters to the point that you lose sight of the goal, or worse, lose time and supporters.
The preceding steps can also be used to help turn neutral stakeholders into supporters. Another consideration for the neutrals is a well-defined project value proposition. Often, they are not clear about what benefit the project brings to them and what their role in the project is. Crafting the right value proposition can help convert them into supporters. For example, a store's stocking clerk may view addition of Smart Shelves (see Chapter 1, "A Better Way of Doing Things") in the store as an unnecessary introduction of technology. If the team conveys the benefit of this technologyless manual checking of shelvesthe clerk may become a supporter. He may even have some suggestions on how to position the antennae around the shelves to improve accuracy.