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Pawel Brodzinski on Software Project Management

Choose Your Battles


Organizational changes are hard. The bigger the company is the stronger it defends its status quo. Humans wearing their employee hats aren’t so much different from those wearing their user hats – they like what they know, thus they don’t like changes. But there’s often someone who isn’t happy with current state.

So you are the one. You aren’t happy with the way your company works. You know what to change. You are even willing to spend significant amount of time and effort to implement The Change. You visualize the new, better, version 2.0 of your organization which will be there once you’re done. And then you rush to convince everyone to subscribe to your vision and fight with those who reject to follow you.


That’s an easy way to lose, become frustrated, get fired, struggle to find another job and die in misery. Oh, I might have exaggerated with the last one a bit.

Every organization, even a small one, has its status quo defenders. If you want The Change you, along with your supporters, are likely outnumbered. Trying to fight every single battle will make your group non-existent, which I guess isn’t the best tactic under the sun.

I’m not saying you should sit there silently waiting for the miracle to come. Try to drop few ideas and observe how people react. It doesn’t take much of perception skills to notice who can support your ideas, who will fight you to the last breath and who doesn’t give a damn.

You will quickly notice that tiny group of your supporters and crowd of opponents. But then you at least know your situation. And you are able to choose your battles in a way which maximizes your outcome. You quickly learn which discussion can be ignored since they aren’t important. You become aware when discussion turns into flame war and it doesn’t make any sense to continue it. And finally you become sensitive to those small signals of support from people whose opinions you care about.

You learn to choose your battles.

If you choose them wisely you win more often. Way more often. And somehow people tend to care about those with a good track record.

Does it mean you should start a discussion only if chances are good for you to win? No. Sometimes you enter battleground being aware you’ll likely lose. But don’t make it a rule. If there are poker players, who never let it go, they are broke. But at the same time they play, and lose, crappy hands from time to time. That’s just cost of learning.

If you followed the article you will enter the battlefield at least knowing who you will have to face. You will be prepared. Folks on the other side probably will not. Oh, unless they read that too, but it is unlikely. Why? Because people don’t listen, don’t read and don’t learn, remember?

in: communication, personal development

2 comments… add one

  • Szymon Pobiega June 21, 2010, 10:52 pm


  • jfbauer June 22, 2010, 5:29 am

    Pawel, good points. If you are over prepared and only enter battles that you know you can win, you risk building the perception that no one will want to work with you/your team. Since people don’t listen, don’t read and don’t learn, they typically don’t put in 110% into their job as you might. Thus, human nature kicks in and they build hatred towards your “always right” persona. Plus, you win a few battles and you might think you are on a roll. Over time, you might get a little over confident and get tripped up in a battle.

    In a similar thought pattern, I wrote an article a bit ago regarding approaching battles essentially with the position of being a maximum of 80% accurate: http://bit.ly/a1XAn

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