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"I Might Be Able To Do This If": Creating a Negotiation

Managers like to have control. This makes perfect sense; out of control and responsible is a very scary place to be. One form of control is choice. To create choice, just give the boss options:

  • We could slip the project by two weeks.
  • We could split the project into phases, delivering a completed, working system on time and delivering follow-up functionality two months later.
  • I could stop working on the super-gonzo project.
  • I could stop other related support activities. (If you track your time for a few days, you might be surprised at all the extra little activities you’re supporting. If you stop supporting those activities, people will probably complain. Framed this way, though, it’s the boss’ decision, not yours.)
  • We could lower the mean time between failure (MBTF) expectations of the system. In other words, expect the system to error more often, and thus lower quality requirements.
  • We could block off boardroom A and get the entire project team working in the same place 100% of the time, and we might have a chance.

Offering options has a wonderful effect. With reasonable management, you can back out of unrealistic expectations, provide management with a sense of control, and reframe the entire project to be possible.

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