Kickstart an amorphous project

I have been put in charge of this large project at work. It had been simmering away in the background for years with no tangible actions to date.

People across the organisation have been contributing ideas all this time. Everything was possible. I think we like that more than we like the idea of execution and implementation.

We have amassed many ideas, opinions and thoughts about what this can be. People seem to be pinning a lot of hopes and wishes on this project.

There are also lots of unclear expectations. Some stakeholders are enthusiastic about it, yet others seem hostile towards it. But they don’t say why.

I don’t know where to begin to get something happening.


As long as something is just a vague possibility, we can safely pin all our hopes and desires on it. An unbounded situation where people can generate ideas can be unproductively attractive.

Motivation can be stated in a business case, hidden inside people’s heads, and often a combination of the two.

Hidden factors like our fears, ego needs, and aspirations affect our performance. Because they are hidden, these factors can be challenging to work with or respond to.

Sometimes, it is unclear motivation, and not budget restrictions or lack of technical expertise, that stymies a project.


The client started to peg arbitrary stakes in the sand to kick-start actions. They started using more definitive language.

They hired a consultant to conceptualise the project in a more concrete fashion; as if they were going to build it. This gave them a tangible basis for discussions.

To improve stakeholder engagement, the client begun to (gently and confidentially) explore the psychological drivers.