I have been learning about the availability heuristic. Faced with the question “Are there more words with K as the third letter or first?” most of us answer incorrectly that it is “K first”. Kahneman and Tversky suggest this is because it is easier for us to think of words that begin with K than to call to mind words with K as the third letter.
So this got me thinking about project life and stakeholders in particular. I often have conversations with colleagues about stakeholder feelings, for example “How do stakeholders feel about a December delivery?”. I realised that the project team frequently go with the opinion they can most easily call to mind (there is usually little time for these discussions). This view is that which is voiced most often and most loudly. Thinking it over, it is clear that this is often not the majority view. The upshot of this is that other, equally important, stakeholders who feel differently don’t get their voices heard.
One answer I found is to ensure that wide consultations are carried out (e.g. surveys or user conference consultations). It is then important that the views are captured, analysed and communicated to the project team. It might be good to bring this up with the team periodically to remind them that the loudest voices do not necessarily represent the majority view.
I realise this is only one reason why the loudest stakeholder view carries sway in projects and one way to counter that. Loud stakeholders often get more influence because it is recognised that their views influence other stakeholders and can create general perceptions of the project. It just struck me that the availability heuristic seemed to relate to some aspects of “Those who shout loudest get heard”.