Fearless project leader

Oh-darnTaking risks seems to be an endangered species in corporate America. But that shouldn’t stop the fearless project leader.
Following are three tips to help you rise to the occasion when all hell is breaking loose.
1. Assure that the team has overturned every stone in the planning phase. This means explicitly including risk and uncertainty into the plan, especially into the budget and schedule if those items are critical to the project success.

2. Create a sound bite plan. The plan should be instantly understood by people far outside your inner ring. Try a one page simplified flow chart of the high-level project critical-chain. Forget programs like MS Project: execs won’t take the time to deal with them. Try a nice Visio diagram showing the critical-path. It’s easier to follow and worth it’s weight in gold when having a dialogue with executives.
SCRAPPY TIP: Ornament the biggest risk areas to the project with clip art such as a skull and cross bones, an ambulance or a ticking time bomb. Dramatic, yes: but these visuals help draw attention to areas of greatest risk to the project.
3. NEVER say NO. I make it a practice always to say “YES, that’s possible if . . .” and explain the interdependencies and impacts. For example, if an executive insists that a project must be completed two months earlier than the high-confidence estimated completion date, I might say something like, “Sure, that’s totally possible if you can tolerate a 70% chance of missing that date, or if you add an additional QA shift during the testing phase.”
Works every time.
When All Else Fails . . .
When everything else fails, pack it up. Put another way, when the horse is dead: get off! Some projects aren’t worthy of your fearless leadership. Move on to your next great opportunity!

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