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The context, in a nutshell is as follow: two recently hired engineers (a colleague and myself) have joined a small project team in our company. I joined the team with the support of my boss as the project's focus is highly interesting in my eyes. My colleague has been hired for the project. The team comprises of two other more senior colleagues.

After a few months of collaboration within the team and observation from my side, I am now convinced that the project faces very high risks. A company wide deployment is scheduled in 2017 and I felt it is my duty to voice my concerns. Same goes for my colleague: we have partially overlapping competences and are very well aligned on our conclusions, and most importantly on the direction we should take to mitigate the risk we see.

At first, collaboration within the team continued as the PM agreed with some of our concerns. However we slowly realized that information was more or less intentionally hidden from us (and I believe a correct understanding of these information is critical to make the right informed decisions). Last week I felt like this was going too far and decided to voice my concerns outside the team and get advices from the outside.

As you guessed that's when the clash happened.

Our technical points have been very well received from managers around us, that gave me confidence to keep pushing for the new solution.

The PM however protects a status quo, as changing now would mean that its direction has been wrong, and used things like "this would mean throwing away the job of 2 people during one and a half year".

A meeting with all parties, including system architects from outside the team and our respective managers has been called on Monday.

The question is : how do I ensure that factual elements are taken into account and how do I try to convince the manager in charge to see that, yes two newcomers want to change what has been done so far, but not just for the fun of it but because they strongly believe in their technical arguments and propose the right solution and direction?

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    What is the 'non factual' element you are concerned about? Your only example, which is someone pointing out that switching solutions would mean throwing away a lot of work, sounds both factual and relevant. – DJClayworth Oct 1 '16 at 23:50
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    "However we slowly realized that information was more or less intentionally hidden from us." Could you elaborate on this? Maybe a meeting is not what's called for if the person you're meeting with is the person in question who broke your trust. – Stephan Branczyk Oct 2 '16 at 0:35
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    Your PM may need to look up "Sunk Cost Fallacy". Throwing away a year of work is bad, but if the only result of working for another year is that you'll be throwing away 2 years of work at that point, it might be for the best to just call it quits right now. – Erik Oct 2 '16 at 1:24
  • @DJClayworth Right indeed, however other managers mentioned the sum cost (as Erik pointed out), however our PM personally took part in that work, so I think the decision is moving away from purely factual to "I must admit I wasn't going in the right direction". – Cedric H. Oct 2 '16 at 9:24
  • @Erik Good that you mention it again, I briefly discussed that with a manager, I'll make sure to have that as a clean/clear argument. – Cedric H. Oct 2 '16 at 9:25
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If you're working with professionals, prepare a professional argument. You can't 'ensure' anything, but you can prepare properly, so don't go in talking off the top of your head. You basically need to be thorough and sell your ideas against resistance.

Try and work out any counter arguments beforehand so you can rebut them immediately and competently. No hesitation and an air of confidence and professionalism is your best assets.

Don't be slow to question, because if the other side isn't as well prepared you come off looking much better. This is what has worked for me anyway, answers at my fingertips and unprepared opponents making me look like the guy with the full view.

Don't go in bemoaning all the problems without solutions. That comes across as a bit whiny, have the solutions planned out and a clear way forward to implement them. Don't be vague about anything, intelligent people will be trying to find flaws, don't give them any ammo. Have your plan in detail and be prepared to go into specifics.

If you come under personal attack, just tell them that's beside the point and they need to focus on the issue, ignore it and move back on topic. It's not a popularity contest or a kissing booth. It's actually a positive sign when they start making personal attacks it's because they have no ammo on the tech side, it's a sign of weakness, recognise it as such rather than rising to the bait. Rip them a new orifice through the tech discussion, it's much more rewarding and satisfying and you come out looking professional and above that sort of thing, while they come out looking like petulant little schoolgirls.

  • Agree with all that! Let's assume this how it happens but then these "professional" move on to considerations that are personal, how can I properly steer the conversation back one where we set personal interests aside? – Cedric H. Oct 1 '16 at 23:31
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    @cedrich: The ideal response is to point out ways the correct solution benefits them more, personally. If you really can't do that, try to point out that those are personal issues and redirect back to the technical, if you can. You may not be able to. Humans do not always do what is logical, and some customers -- external or internal -- insist on going to hell in their own way. You may have to approach this as a salesman -- offer them your best advice, but settle for keeping them from making the worst mistakes. – keshlam Oct 1 '16 at 23:47
  • @CedricH. added to the answer to take that into account. – Kilisi Oct 2 '16 at 2:50
  • @Kilisi Right, I'll let you know on Monday if I succeeded ;) – Cedric H. Oct 2 '16 at 10:48
  • @keshlam understood – Cedric H. Oct 2 '16 at 10:49

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