The good news is that people often remember the outcome and your grace under pressure when handling the problem. Your approach and problem-solving speed makes all the difference in getting back on track:
- Get a perspective of the problem
- Adapt to the situation
- Review your options
- Revise and get back on track
The first time I experienced a major project setback it hit me hard because I thought our bases were covered. Almost overnight, our project funding dried up as if by some voodoo magic.
Known for my “plan B” project expertise this setback not only came as a surprise, but was a major embarrassment to me as well. While my energy and focus was intent on leading the team and solving daily operational problems, there was a subtle political shift happening that would negatively affect our multi-phased project. The unseen benefit for us came in the guise of four key lessons.
Get a Perspective
Once the initial shock wore off, my project team kicked around next step ideas. It was clear that both our primary and back-up funding sources were gone and no amount of whining or gnashing of teeth would fill the coffers.
We stepped back and reviewed our options, which ranged from abruptly ending the project to an aggressive slim plan where we cut our future project phases and consolidated key features into the current release. We decided that a do-able, and maybe higher risk strategy, was to cross-sell access of our project’s features and benefits with other departments in exchange for funding.
Lesson: Don’t get lost in the weeds; focus on the wider playing field.
Review Your Options
We initially targeted managers with budget responsibility and problems that our tool could solve with a value add of reducing costs down the road. Our next list of possible candidates included influential managers without their own budgets but who could sway a funding decision in our favor.
A third list of prospects included projects in trouble—funding or otherwise—that would complement our own as a “bundled product” and possibly attract interested budget owners. Our final list included strategic suppliers whose services could easily integrate with our tool.
Lesson: Target the low hanging fruit ripe for the picking.
Adapt to the Situation
Flexibility was the name of this game. Unfortunately, I had allowed my relationships with two of our top funding prospects to get stale and now I was looking to reconnect with my empty pockets turned out.
Although not the optimum situation for beginning negotiations, it was do-able when I quickly updated our “common denominators” and used these as a launch point for our conversation.
Lesson: Relationships are like well-oiled machinery, they operate better when maintained.
Revise and Rebound
Given that a political shift had initially caused our financial difficulty, I introduced the concept of a two-tiered Plan C for our multi-phased project. Various members of the team would help manage the tiers.
Plan C’s Tier one focus was political astuteness throughout the life of the project. This meant staying on top of political developments beyond the initial planning stage. No such thing as a wasted experience—this process would eventually lead me to develop the Political Influence Profile template as part of my 4–Step Negotiations Plan.
Tier Two introduced a funding plan that went beyond our original Plan B and consisted of securing downstream funding for future phases. Team members served as project evangelists and “sales reps” for the next release long before completion of the current one.
Lesson: Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.