Project Management: Making the Impossible Request… Possible

Project Management: Making the Impossible Request… Possible

Project Management: Making the Impossible Request… Possible

We tell ourselves, our coworkers, and our kids to at least try before saying “I can’t.” So, what happens when we are presented with an urgent challenge that, on paper, just seems impossible? The resources, the budget, and the schedule might just not add up.

I recently remembered how such a surprise task can provoke an initial reaction of “that just can’t be done in the time given.” I work on large, complex information technology projects as a senior project manager, so I hear some pretty impossible requests.

The team that tackles these challenges differentiates itself from those unwilling to try to get the job done. With a lot of work and coordination, that surprise task was successfully completed in time.

Here are some important steps you can take when facing the impossible: * Take a deep breath and zero in on the critical path. Set aside the typical inputs, outputs, documents, and standard review periods, and focus on the tasks that allow your team to complete the job in the shortest time possible without sacrificing quality

  • Request waivers on typical business procedures and processes. After determining your critical path, sit down with stakeholders or leadership and discuss whether your team can achieve the proposed abridged approach, understanding that there will likely be additional risk in bypassing controls

  • Explore alternative budget avenues. In urgent cases, there are often options. Sit down with a contracting representative and stakeholders and discuss alternative funding

  • Consider growing your team. Discuss temporarily adding more resources by pulling personnel from other projects or enacting a quick hire process

  • Communicate. To succeed, all hands must be on deck. Keep communication strong and get dependencies and other blockers out of the way

  • Lead. Model leadership behaviors, recognize your team when they work as a team, and set a vision for how together you can achieve the challenging goal

  • Maintain expectations. If you are bypassing some controls, crashing a schedule, and pulling in new resources, then risks may increase. Document the risks and mitigate as best possible, constantly communicating changes

There is no silver bullet to achieve an aggressive delivery timeline, in information technology or any other project. It takes a collective group working together and exploring a range of options to be successful. The steps above are a start, but there may be others in your toolkit. The takeaway: before saying “we can’t,” look for ways to say, “we can!”

About Arc Aspicio
Arc Aspicio is a management, strategy, and technology consulting firm that takes a mission-oriented approach to complex client challenges. Focused on innovation, Arc Aspicio provides services in strategy, design, human capital, operations, analytics and visualization, technology, and information sharing. The company is known for a strong, collaborative culture that values gratitude, provides leadership opportunities, and explores the future. Our teams use a human-centered approach to working with clients and are flexible and responsive within dynamic Government client environments that often have new priorities and evolving missions. We thrive on these situations and promote continuous improvement and new ideas. And, #welovedogs! Follow us on Twitter @arcaspicio or learn more at www.arcaspicio.com.

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Scott Estelle |

Scott Estelle is a Managing Associate at Arc Aspicio. Scott blends his ability to create business solutions enabled by the latest technology with his experience managing large teams to oversee solutions from concept to reality. He brings more than 11 years of experience working with government agencies, such as the Department of Homeland Security, the United States Postal Service, and the Department of Education, to implement modernized solutions.

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