6.8 Anticipating the arguments
18. Have the objectives and perspectives of all the key stakeholders concerned with the decision been taken account of in the previous assessment of costs, benefits and risks?
19. What are the reasons that this proposal is preferred over other options for solving the problem or addressing the performance gap? Have these other options been thoroughly evaluated in comparison?
Hopefully your thorough analysis prior to this point in making your case has included anticipation of concerns that might be raised by your audience. You do not want any surprises when you present your case. It is quite feasible for a single well-made point of concern or objection from your audience to damn your proposal outright if you cannot answer it convincingly. Yet, with a little forethought, that objection might easily have been successfully addressed within the project proposal, and not posed any threat whatsoever. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, of course! Those involved in making the decision on your proposal will all have their own points of view, some related to their functional interests, some to their personal ‘hobby horses’. It is your job to recognise these and predict, as far as possible, the sort of questions each will have for you, for example:
Human resources director: what are the implications for staff training? Won't that increase your costs considerably?
Production director: how will we cope with the changeover to the new equipment? We can't afford any more down time.
Non-executive director: you are proposing to source materials from third world countries. How are ethical and environmental concerns being taken into account?
Marketing director: the markets for this new product line seem quite distinct from our existing markets. Where are the resources to come from for getting into these new markets? I don't think our existing sales and distribution network could cope.
Chief executive: you are claiming this will make us more competitive, but in the short term there's quite a drain on our resources, so exactly how do you foresee this competitive edge developing?
While it might be tempting to keep some of your facts under wraps so that you can be ultra-impressive when called upon to answer a point, it is probably better that your written or verbal presentation should indicate that all the angles have been covered. You might not wish to show all the details, but can at the very least point out that you have thought about the issue and can provide a more detailed analysis if needed. Not all the concerns harboured by your audience may be raised explicitly (through shortage of time for discussion, say) yet they may still influence the decision.
An important aspect of anticipating arguments is to show that other options to address the ‘problem’ have been considered in an appropriate level of detail. It might be worthwhile producing a simple analysis of the pros and cons of each option explaining how you came to decide on the proposal on the table. Any formal evaluation procedures used to help make the choice should be indicated. Avoid too much detail or emphasis here – the focus of attention should be your current proposal. You want your audience to feel confident in your judgement, not necessarily to engage with the evaluation process all over again.