Hope for the Best, Plan for the Worst

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Andy was delighted for the opportunity to manage the Quality Initiative Project (QIP). He had overseen a few projects previously, mostly small ones, but the QIP would give him visibility at the highest levels of management and would surely lead to a promotion.

The QIP was a two-year effort designed to improve the quality in all areas of project management including enhancements to every form, guideline, template and checklist in the PM methodology. Andy would be working closely with all of the functional managers looking for ways to make their project management work easier to accomplish and with a higher degree of quality.

It was time for Andy to negotiate for resources. In his mind, QIP was the highest priority project in the company, although, there were several other projects that management believed to be of higher priority. Nevertheless, Andy negotiated for the best functional resources rather than any other resources that were competent enough to get the job done. Usually, the project manager states what work should be done and the functional managers determine who from their group should be assigned. Andy, however, wanted specific people that were at the top of their pay grade. Rather than continue with “harassing” negotiations, most of the functional managers agreed to Andy’s requests for specific individuals.

Right from the onset of the project, Andy could see the morale of the team was quite low. Despite his attempts to build it up, everything he tried was failing. By the end of the third month of the project, several of what Andy believed to be his most important resources were reassigned other projects that their respective functional managers considered to be of greater importance to the company. In many instances, Andy was unhappy with the replacement personnel but had no choice in accepting them. This was not how he expected the project to proceed.

Andy began talking to the team members one-on-one and discovered the following facts:

(1) Most of the team members did not consider the assignment on the QIP challenging and believed that the work could be done by lower grade personnel;

(2) Most of the team members believed that the QIP assignment would not improve their chances for promotion and some even believed it might be seen as a demotion;

(3) Some of the resources were such good workers that they were promoted right off of Andy’s project and on to more critical assignments.

By the end of the 6th month Andy had lost almost all of the critical resources that were initially assigned to the QIP. He met with the project sponsor to see if he could get support for getting some of the critical resources reassigned back onto his project, complaining that every time a new face appears on the project, the plan seemed to change. Andy had hoped to keep the same faces on the project for the entire two years. While the sponsor understood his dilemma, they stated that he was unwilling to usurp the authority of the functional managers with regard to project staffing. Furthermore, the sponsor stated that it is unrealistic to expect the same people assigned to just one project for the entire two-year duration.

As Andy was about to leave the sponsor’s office, the sponsor asked, “What are your contingency plans for the QIP given the current staffing issues?” Andy was at a loss for words. While he had hoped for the best while negotiating for resources, he had neglected to plan for the worst.

As a side note, the last time I had met with Andy, he was in the third year of his two-year project.

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