The Unattainable Deadline

It is a project manager’s worst nightmare.   Well, maybe one of them.  Due to some factor, another project, project participants having less time, or a hundred other things, you are not going to be able to accomplish all of your goals.

Bummer.

Believe it or not, though, this is when you can really show your value to the team.

Discuss potential issues affecting the project team as early as possible. And there are really three things:

  1. Identify risks as early as possible
  2. Discuss those risks and mitigating actions with your project sponsor and team early
  3. Try to ensure that you keep the foundation goals and delay the later, flashier goals, if necessary

Since it is your role to have the highest level view of the project, you will be among the first to know if there are any risks to accomplishing your goals.  At least you better be.  One way to find out what is coming is to frequently poll your team for anything they see in their areas that might be a risk.  You also want to talk with your executive sponsor to see if he or she knows of any potential risks.  If there is a group of project managers, make sure you are keeping in touch with them so that if priorities change you all know right away.

And then, unfortunately, even though GI Joe says knowing is half the battle, in your case, knowing could be 10% to 90% of the battle. Now, if after a discussion with your executive sponsor, you realize there has to be a change, comes a time when you have to reset expectations.

This could be very simple if everyone agrees that a change to the project land is needed, or it could be very tricky to wade through if you have a disagreement from some of your project team or, even worse, your executive sponsor.

This is where you draw upon your formidable project manager skills, sit down with your team and slash or project sponsor and work things out.  Just like everything else in a project I believe this should be done by an open and honest discussion. Let people throw out ideas and let them discuss them. It may be well for you to warn them that if there is a
deadlock, then the executive sponsor is going to make the decision.

Probably the best thing you can contribute to the discussion is to encourage the team two complete the foundation goals, even if they are not as flashy or rewarding as the later project goals.  And be wary of shortening time frames.  They were probably tight already.  It is much better to put out a solid product without the bells and whistles than one that seems great but is fraught with problems. In the former way you still do a solid job and you have built a base to start the next phase from. Rushing or skipping steps puts you huge risk of rework when of project is restarted, as well as a bunch of ongoing trouble for you your project team and everyone else involved.

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