Visualizing the Enemy

Machiavelli: “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer”

This graphical technique can help you predict who may block the success of your program by helping you visualize friends and foes to pinpoint and eliminate blockers.  Believe it or not, relationships can be mapped and while it is subjective, it is easy to do relative comparisons of one who is more supportive of your program than someone else.

What is the Tool?  Attitude Influence Map

It is a scatter plot of friends and foes, where one axis is how friendly they are, the other is how influential they are (a combination of how high they are in the organization and how much influence they have over critical resources or decisions).  By looking at the quadrant of high influence, and negative support, you pick your battles to work on individuals who may threaten your success.  After isolating enemies you express a simple strategy to go after them – this could be a one on one meeting, this could be an email to their boss, or having someone close to them talk to them for feedback.

What are the Benefits?

  • Provide a visual political map

  • Expose managers who can block or disrupt your project

  • Do something about it before it affects the project

What Business Problems Do We Solve?

Frankly we would like to say your organization has no politics, but it does and not everyone is on board with your objectives. Also, you have limited time to work on politics, and this pinpoints people and position so you use your time wisely. Provided we have a menu of solutions, we can start to act – drawing from proven change management techniques to deal with the influential but negative individuals.

What are some considerations?

Knowing who is in the way is a far cry from eliminating their influence so more important than this graphical technique is the political skills to influence outcomes.  Also you need a small team or inner circle to create this diagram and work the issues but usually you can find 1-2 other people to help.  Sometimes it is challenging to agree on how negative some is – so pairwise comparison (compare Bill with Frank, then Frank with Jill helps you find out how Bill and Jill stack up). Some may feel this technique is political in itself, so be careful on how you expose this in your organization.

Case Study

A large web project has been kicked off to redesign the architecture to handle 25x more users which requires new technologies and new service provider (host) and though supported by CEO, it was not budgeted.  Furthermore, the IT manager does not support going to a new service provider, the QA manager is not staffed to support testing, and the CTO and VP are not aligned on the technical approach, and finally, Product management wants to include feature enhancements (of course).

You are the Project Manager, what do you do?  The process has a few simple steps, completed in this order:

  1. Create list of key people – Managers and Individual Contributors

  2. 2-3 people on team graph them – using pairwise comparison first plot influence then rank them on attitude.

  3. Those in the upper quadrant is identified (high influence, negative attitude)

  4. Individual and group plans are formulated to address these naysayers as a group or singly (most common)

  5. Plans are executed by the 2-3 doing this work and graph is recomputed


This shows that we would like to work on the CIO, QA and Product Manager to ensure project success since they are influential and have a negative attitude.