Tough Times

The Purpose of me in writting this article is because of the people who inspired me to the core during my duration here in the philippines. Although their names shouldn’t be specified here, I hope they will be in my path to the destiny always.

Right now you have to be partially blind and totally out of touch not to realize that times are tough.  Companies that have always been rock solid are laying off, and even the banks are in trouble.  Companies are struggling to stay afloat, and they are doing so by cutting staff down to the bare bones.  What does that mean for the Project Managers?  Pretty much what it means for the rest of the working population – Expected to produce more, with less resources to do it with.

So how do we manage to keep things on track when we don’t have the resources? That’s a really good question.  Trying to manage projects with the possibility that project members may be laid off at any time is a great risk to the project deliverables.  Obviously the answer is that if there are less men covering those man hours the timeline must increase in duration.  Of course that may not be accepted by management as an option, but then our choices are to either decrease the quality of the deliverables, or cut down the functionality of the releases to make the dates. None of this really appeals to those in upper management, but it is a reality that we all have to face if not now, then in the near future.  So how should we handle it, what tools can we use to hold off a total Project failure?

There are two tools that I think everyone needs to utilize to be successful (and redefine success under less than optimum resource conditions), effective communication and expectation management.  Part of our jobs is to do what is in the best interest of the Project, so what we can do make it successful, with success being defined as the production of some form of deliverable(s), delivered on-time and on-budget.  Statistically less inputs will equal less outputs, there is no way around that regardless of what management might demand.  My suggestion is that we take the opportunity to communicate the balance between the triad factors and force a decision from management as to which factor will have to be adjusted.  Of course this is easier said than done in most cases.

I recently had a long meeting with an external client that was requesting me to do what equated to pulling a rabbit out of a hat.  Keep to the timeline although we have cut the Project budget, and deliver all functionality “on-time”.  Seeing this coming I had structured a new timeline based on phasing in the functionality for the system providing much the same deliverables, but over a much longer period, hoping that more budget dollars would appear in the next budgeting period.  My timeline and presentation were well thought out, well presented and a viable option to the problem but I got shot down, with a “No, that will not be acceptable.  We need it all, and on time, you will just have to figure out a way to make it happen.”  

I went back to the strategy of communicating my position  Can we do more with less, yes, but not without altering the quality (in this case functionality) and the timeline.  Can I borrow team members from elsewhere (resources), no? OK same problem.  Can we stretch out the timeline, no? OK quality will fall if we rush.  Can we reduce the amount of deliverables expected, no? Rushing again.  I’m afraid I went around in circles for a few hours until we were on the same page.  My analogy was this: “You can’t take 9 women and make a baby in a month just because you want to, some things are just not possible with any degree of quality”.  Cost and schedule are incredibly important, but my experience is that when bringing up the threat to quality to the client, most will be less forceful.  Let’s look at this from a simple/stupid example –  is anyone willing to allow a Surgeon to operate on them when he only has the operating room for two hours and with two less nurses than he needs due to budget cuts?  I don’t think so.

I have been asking more questions and communicating more lately and I am clinging to those two skills with everything I’ve got.  Making sure that everyone shares all of the information necessary to come to the same conclusion that you have is critical. I’ve started owning that if that person I am trying to get to share my perspective doesn’t, I’ve done a poor job of communicating.  When that happens I need to put more effort into making sure the picture I’m painting is exact, and that they see the same picture that I do, with all of the same details.  Obviously everyone has separate concerns based on their department, but no one wants to be responsible for a failure.  If that threat of failure is communicated loud and clear and the decision is made not to alter the course by managers above. Not the ultimate outcome, but I think acceptable in this current economic climate.  Some times the answer is “No, it can’t be done”.  I have a feeling that I will be saying that a lot more in the future


3 thoughts on “Tough Times”

  1. Nice blog entries you have! I am proud of you!

    Anyway, I made one for you. I am sure that no article yet has been written in the internet about you and how you have been so true to people you value most.

    I will take this chance to do so. I am sure that hundred years from now, this blog entry will remain as the first one about you though brief. Thanks and cheers to you my friend!

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