Monday, April 30, 2007

April 30, 2007 – So What?

Anyone who has teenagers or has had to deal with them will inevitably run into one with a bad attitude. Even their body language says “SO WHAT?” As project managers we deal with a lot of issues, risks, problems and people. Some times it makes you want to throw your hands up and say, “So what?!?!” Actually, that might not be a bad idea. How would that look for issues, risks, budget or schedule problems and politics?

Issues. My natural inclination when someone raises an issue is to try and solve it. The next time you are confronted with one make sure to ask “so what?” So what is the impact to the project? Is it severe? Does it need to be address immediately? Is it something we can live with? Can it be addressed in future releases? Some times the impact is small enough that it isn’t worth the effort to address the issue.

Risks. Applying the “so what?” question to risks is easier since you aren’t feeling the immediate pain you do with an issue. Not all identified risks are dealt with the same way. In addition to Avoidance (sidestepping it), Mitigation (reducing the probability or impact) and Transference (making it someone else’s problem) there is the ultimate “so what” attitude: Acceptance. In Risk Acceptance you look at the probability of it becoming an issue and the impact to the project and decide it isn’t worth the effort to take action against it.

Budget or Schedule Problems. Budgets and schedules usually are scrutinized highly on projects, but sometime even they get trumped. There are times when a project has to get done. People may be willing to pay whatever it takes and wait longer to get it. I was managing on project where new requirements were requested toward the end of the testing phase. When we said it couldn’t be done the response was, “Would more money help?” Unfortunately money wasn’t the issue, time was.

I can’t stand politics. It is probably because my straight forward approach to life and management causes me to inadvertently step on toes I don’t see. The question can work here, too. I would suggest you let the voices inside your head ask the “so what?” question rather than blurting it out. So what if that person or group isn’t happy with the product? Does it meet the specs? Are they the ones paying for it? So what if they aren’t going to like the status I need to give? Is it better they hear it now before the project fails? So what…do I have to do now that I offended the boss?!

The answer to this question will help you gauge what your response should be. Sometimes you will luck out and be able to ignore the problem. Other times the answer will be to take action. Either way, you will be working from an informed position, not reacting blindly.

1 comment:

Josh Nankivel said...

Great post, Thomas. It is important to remember that not everything is a show-stopper. We've missed you! Perhaps it's the same with you, but I seem to have a lot of implementations going on right now which are eating up my time and not allowing me to post as frequently as usual.

Josh Nankivel
Vice Chair of Special Projects, PMI SoPM SIG