How to Compromise on a High-Stakes Project

When the rubble settled after the attacks in New York City on September 11th, the city had set a goal:

To replace the towers with a monument and new World Trade Center by September 11th, 2011.

To do this they had to reconcile the three critical facets of a project:

Scope, budget, and deadline.

Each of these components is elastic with respect to the others.

Here’s an example:

If the city planners wanted to add features (increase the scope) to the building outside of the original plan, they’d either have to hire more people to finish it on time (increase the budget) or they’d need more time to get it done (extend the deadline).

If any of these facets is inelastic, the others must become MORE elastic to compensate.

Here’s what actually happened:

The Deadline was the most important part. The city wanted to have the new monument completed before the tenth anniversary of the attacks. It was important for the spirit of the city to see this recovery. It had sentiment. It could not be changed.

Since this building was going to be the face of the memory of so many brave people, city planners were reluctant to minimize them. They couldn’t erect a crummy, half-baked remnant after an attack like that. It had to be robust and beautiful. It could not be changed.

So when the deadline and the scope are inelastic, the budget must be TWICE as elastic to compensate.

You guessed it.

They went way over budget.

How are you reconciling these three facets of project management in your business? Based on their relationships, are you surprised by where your budgets or deadlines are? How about the set of features in your scope?

You’re going to have to compromise. It’s inevitable.

Based on the mission of your project, will you kill a feature or go over budget when you’re faced with reality?

Would your team make the same choices?

It’s your responsibility to keep yourself, your team, and your project’s mission in alignment with these three facets.

Some interesting info about the development of One World Trade Center and the Monument.

The 3 Things Essential Things Good Managers Do

Management theory has known that the “Carrot or Stick” method isn’t effective for optimizing your team.

What happens?

Employees work just hard enough to get the carrot, or just enough to avoid the stick.

This means that after a certain point money isn’t a motivator anymore, it’s a de-motivator.

When your team is incentivized to be mediocre, they’ll perform perfectly every time. 

Perfectly mediocre.

So how do you get them to hustle for you?

1. Give them more ownership and responsibility.

If you give them clear expectations about what’s required in the deliverable, and a clear mission statement for the project, do you really need to hold their hands?

As long as it’s ethical and is done by your deadline, does it matter how the work gets done? How might the pressure of breathing over their shoulder impact their performance?

2. Give them positive feedback when they do something well.

If they never know when they’re doing something well, they will have no reason to continue doing it. You’ve told them what they’re doing isn’t valuable.

“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”

– William Arthur Ward

3. Be prepared to let projects fail.

Just because you’re a great manager doesn’t mean your team will always perform their best. 

Pro-tip: If you’re seeing the same mistakes happen, be forgiving the first time, and ask what they need or how you can help. The second time, express your disappointment but assert that you’re there to help.

If you’ve asked how you can help, provided resources or tools, and output is still low, you either have a dud or someone who is experiencing a temporary life event.

It’s your job to build enough trust with your team so that they feel comfortable telling you about what’s going on in their lives. 

If they don’t hit their performance criteria (that you both agreed on when you hired them) let them go. The saying goes “hire slow, fire fast.”

What are some ways you motivate your team intrinsically? Reply and let me know.

Shiny Red Balls

It’s your next great business idea.

It’s the thing you can do to just make some quick cash on the side.

It’s the side project that hasn’t really given you back anything.

All of these things are distractions.

They’re shiny red balls that catch our attention, lead us astray, and rob us of our effort.

They pull us away from doing the hard and difficult work of sticking to the path, gritting our teeth, and getting through the scary part of building our projects.

What will you have in place to protect yourself from the shiny red balls?

A candid mentor to call you out? A cash flow report to put your attention on survival? A time line you gave yourself and your business partner?

When your brain lights up at the sight of a shiny red ball and it’s all you can see, how will you snap yourself out of it?

If you know you can’t trust yourself in those moments, how will you get past them?

It’s up to your present self to protect and inform your future self.