I joined my current programme four months ago. The stakeholder landscape was barely civil, the project couldn't get off the ground. Contract deadlines were approaching and options seemed very limited.
Three months later commercials were signed, the stakeholders were united around a common purpose and a defined plan to implementation existed.
See the illustration below. I should concede at this point that this isn't mine - I'd discussed the profound turn around with a very experienced senior leader and they were kind enough to share the benefits of their wisdom.
For over 12 months, the programme had tried to go from A (the departure point) direct to D (the end game). It had tried to do this several times, with slight variations but had ultimately never left A. The route from A to D was attractive because it was expedient, efficient, delivered on the project's mandate and looked deceptively simple. The problem was that amongst all the stakeholders, only staff on the project team and sponsor knew this. For everyone else, it simply wasn't feasible, let alone desirable.
When finally this was recognised, stakeholders were invited to engage in a far more participatory fashion. To make modest concessions and to consider alternatives. Progress was made and built upon.
We don't need to be too literal about the illustration above. However, its worth noting for our purposes here that having moved from an initial position (A), to a new position (B), there's a willingness to acknowledge possible further incremental change or for stakeholders themselves to actively participate in defining the next step.
Over on the excellent Voices on Project Management blog, Lynda Bourne makes the following observation.