Are you feeling stuck? If so, let’s talk about getting unstuck and moving again.
With all that we have to do, we can’t afford to stay in one place too long. Somehow, we must keep things moving forward. Otherwise, there will be consequences—missed deadlines, unhappy stakeholders, demoralized team members, and ultimately adverse impacts to the company’s bottom line.
So, why do project managers get stuck in the first place? There are several reasons. First, it’s analysis paralysis. We get stuck in over-analyzing (or over-thinking) things such as requirements. Second, it’s fear. We are afraid that we will make a mistake. Third, it’s perfectionism—the refusal to accept any standard short of perfection. We mean well, but this mindset is a toxic trap that hinders our progress as we seek the approval of others. Fourth, it’s poor decision making. The project team has identified multiple options for solving the problem, but can’t seem to pick one.
Overcoming Analysis Paralysis
One critical role of a requirements analyst—whether it’s the project manager or a business analyst—is to analyze. We break down something—a system or process—into smaller chunks so we can better understand how it works and the inherit limitations and problems. Why do project teams get stuck when discussing options?
Some teams spend too much time debating the new features for a software solution or how to streamline a business process. Rather than staying focused on the requirements, these teams may drift into the design elements (e.g., use radio buttons or a drop-down menu). And some situations are complex—it’s difficult to fully understand the inputs and interactions and predict what will happen.
So, how can we analyze without going overboard?
- Set a firm deadline for completing the analysis
- Get the right people involved
- Clarify the problems and get the data
- Prototype, particularly for complex situations
- Brainstorm and evaluate the options for solving the problem
- Make a decision (more on decision-making later)
Getting Past Our Fears
With so much uncertainty, how can we lead with confidence? How do we take the next step?
Perform your due diligence and make the best decision that you can—with the information you have TODAY. If you discover additional information later—that affects the decision—respond accordingly.
Recognize that we all make mistakes when making decisions—that’s okay. Catherine Cook noted, “If you’re not making mistakes then you’re not making decisions.” Furthermore, Henry Ford wisely said, “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.”
Breaking the Chains of Perfectionism
Another reason we get stuck is the close cousin of fear—perfectionism. Remember: “The perfect is the enemy of the good.” Chasing the pipe dream of perfection can stop us in our tracks.
Don’t we want to produce a remarkable product or service? Absolutely! But what is remarkable?
The challenge is defining and meeting the requirements without falling into the dark side of perfectionism. Ask yourself, how can you and your team take imperfect action and keep moving?
First, realize that our job is to develop the requirements with input from appropriate stakeholders—individuals, groups, and organizations. Second, create the product and service according to the requirements—nothing more and certainly nothing less—this is quality management. Third, facilitate the formal acceptance of the deliverables—this is scope management.
Making Decisions More Quickly and Confidently
Making decisions in a timely manner will help expedite your projects. How can we make our decisions quickly and confidently?
Plan for your decisions. That is to say, determine the most significant decisions and who—an individual or a group—will make the decisions.
Next, capture the significant decisions in a decision register. For each decision, record the date, the decision, who made the decision, and any notes for future reference.
Finally, evaluate your decisions over time. Things change in our projects. So, periodically, review prior decisions to determine if they remain valid. If not, re-engage the decision makers, revise the decisions, and update the register.