Saturday, August 25, 2012

Dealing with Conflicting Priorities

I received an interesting inquiry regarding my last blob, “Conflicts in a Professional Services Organization,” that made this statement:

With more and more matrixed projects (sales, operations, etc); the conflict could come from competing priorities and/or schedules on the "customer" side.   That is, one customer may deviate from plan and ask for an additional enhancement (or requirement) that could add "xxx revenue" to the organization.  Yet, delay in delivering that item could lose xxx in savings to the operations team”.
Project Managers (PM) know this all too well, whether we are in a traditional Project Management Office (PMO) or in a Professional Service Organization (PSO). This statement captures scope creep and the traps that come along with it very well. The additional enhancement is something that was missed in the initial stage of the project, but is necessary for the successful completion of the project. So, what is a PM to do?
First, do no harm
So, the PM is happily reporting that the project is green and progressing along very well. Then, the project sponsor, or the client, along with the users or the customers, alerts the PM that there is one missing deliverable. Calmly, the PM collects the information and realizes that the additional deliverable will make the project late and over budget, not to mention that this request is out of scope. So, the first priority for the PM is to ensure the success that has been accomplished during a project is not jeopardized by this additional deliverable. So the first thing the PM should say is the following:
“I understand that this additional deliverable brings with it sizeable advantages for the product. I also acknowledge the work of the project team for delivering a project that is meeting scope, time, and cost so far. I believe I have all of the objectives of this new deliverable and new scope for the project. What I will do is come up with a change request that will review the additional deliverable and the changes that this additional deliverable brings with it. I hope to have this change request delivered to you in XX days so that the project team can review and evaluate it”.
Let’s review what is stated in this message. First, the PM acknowledges the project team for delivering a project that is, so far, within budget, on time, and within scope. It is critical that everyone on the team understands this point. The PM is simply saying that gold-plating is not acceptable and that the current success of the project must not be jeopardized. The PM is also saying that, besides the additional scope, time, cost, and possibly additional resources may be added.
Now, this additional deliverable brings with it additional revenue for the client/customer and possibly additional revenue to the team delivering the project, the PSO. So the PM must keep this in mind when evaluating this additional scope. When evaluating this new scope/change, the PM must also take into account the additional value this new deliverable brings with it. Also, when evaluating this change, the PM may have to add additional resources, as the current project resources may not be able to deliver certain additional tasks that will be added to the project. Once the additional costs are tallied and the possible change in delivery date is determined, the PM must discuss this with his or her management first. The PM’s management must be convinced that this is the correct course of action, along with the change in scope, cost, time, and possibly resources. If the delivery date is not something that can be changed, then the need for additional resources is almost a certainty. If the change only moves the delivery date out a short period, for example a week, without adding resources, then the PM may be able to deliver a change request that may be acceptable to the project sponsor.
It is imperative that the PM keeps composed and delivers the change with integrity and composure. The project sponsor needs to know that the PM is the leader as well as the manager of the project. This change is a challenge that the PM must meet and use his “capital” to keep the project sponsor as an ally. There is no greater responsibility for the PM than to keep his or her integrity, even in the face of a change that may be difficult.

If you would like to comment about this blog, please do so by responding in an email at Benny A. Recine, or if you would like to publicly comment in this blog. I will respond as soon as I can and you may inspire a blog article. I look forward to your comments.

1 comment:

  1. Benny - Thanks for this post: it's very well written and to the point.