Episode 5 Week 2 – Wednesday

Episode 5 Week 2 – Wednesday

THE STORY SO FAR:

Alice has made a plan. Now, she has to sell it to everybody, especially B-Bob.

 

NOW READ ON:

Alice was nervous. In fact, ‘nervous’ wasn’t the right word. She was terrified. She fidgeted with her papers and checked the projector and her laptop for the umpteenth time.

Completely out of character, B-Bob was not only first to arrive but was early. He took the seat at the head of the table and sat there silently, watching Alice as she fussed. She smiled at him and he smiled back. It was the most unpleasant smile she’d ever seen.

Mercifully, the others began arriving, one by one – Harry, Sammy, Ted, Patricia and Magnus. When they were all seated, B-Bob said menacingly. ‘Your meeting.’

Alice explained what she had done in conjunction with the other members of the team. [In case you’re wondering, what she had done is described here http://fastprojects.org/whats-in-a-plan-well-actually-these-six-things/] In particular, she showed them the numbers – amounts of work to be done versus people available to do that work. She explained why there was contingency in the plan and when B-Bob tried to take it out, she argued against that until he went quiet.

‘So we now have a plan,’ she said. ‘In fact,’ – she paused dramatically for effect – ‘we have several possible plans.’

‘This is the first one. If we continue with the staffing we have, we can deliver the fully-featured product in thirteen months, for the current budget.’

B-Bob made a very strange sound, a mixture of outrage and pain.

‘If we hired six more people,’ Alice continued, undeterred, ‘we could deliver the fully-featured product in eleven months. But we would have the increased cost of the extra people.

‘And finally, if we scaled back the product to an absolute bare minimum, we could deliver it in nine months.’

She paused to let all of this sink in. Then, she continued.

‘Assuming that what you want is a fully-featured product, as quickly as possible, then I would suggest we take option two and immediately go ahead and hire the extra people.’

B-Bob made another strange sound, a bit like a turkey gobbling. His face had become very red.

Finally, he managed to speak.

‘If six people would get it done in eleven months, then more people will get it done quicker.’

Alice felt a little dart of satisfaction. Instead of saying more of the phrases from The Boss’ and Stakeholders’ Impossible Missions Playbook, B-Bob was looking at the numbers, the facts. This was a step in the right direction.

‘No. We examined that. Six is the optimum number. Any less and we’re missing opportunities to improve the schedule; any more and they’d just be in the way.’

There are times when not it’s best not to add anything else – to just shut up and say nothing. Alice knew that this was one of those times. All eyes had turned to B-Bob. The seconds passed. Finally, B-Bob said, ‘I guess we’ll do that then.’

‘Option two?’ asked Alice, just to be sure. ‘Hire the six more people?’

‘That’s what I said,’ said B-Bob.

With that decision made, the meeting room emptied faster than small town gossip. Only B-Bob stayed behind. Alice gathered up her stuff, conscious that he was still there.

‘Alice?’ B-Bob said.

‘Yes?’

‘This afternoon I’ll have to talk to Vincenzo B Balenciaga. You know who he is?’

‘No.’

‘V.B.B. – the Very Big Boss. I’m gonna have to tell him all this.’

‘Of course.’

‘He ain’t gonna be happy. I gave him my personal assurances that we could do this in six months.’

Well that was a stupid thing to do, thought Alice – before you even had a plan, before you even knew exactly what you were building. She said nothing.

‘He ain’t gonna be happy.’

‘I guess not.’

‘Alice?’

‘Yes?’

‘About all this … the project … you know …’

‘Yes?’

B-Bob paused. Maybe it was for dramatic effect too.

‘Just don’t be wrong.’

B-Bob said it like it was a line from a Mafia movie.

With that, B-Bob got up and walked out.

Alice returned to her desk. Reg, her friend, looked in.

‘How that go?’

‘Quite well, actually.’

‘You got a result?’

‘Yep.’

‘A realistic plan?’

‘Yep.’

‘Really?’

‘Yep.’

‘Wow! That’ll be a first. How’d you manage that?’

‘Well first, I built a realistic plan and then, before going into the meeting I locked down my position.’

‘How do you mean? What’s that?’

‘There are a few ways, really. One is that, before you go into the meeting, you say to yourself, ‘This is where I’m drawing the line. I will not move from this. They can cut off my legs, they can threaten me with death by torture, tsunamis can wash over me, but I’m not moving from this position.’

‘Cool,’ said Reg.

‘A variation of that is where you add a bit extra onto the schedule, put up a bit of token resistance and then give it away, bringing you back to where you wanted to be in the first place. Everybody wins. The bosses and stakeholders feel they’ve had a negotiation, that they’ve pushed you to the wire and you get what you want – a realistic plan.’

‘Nice.’

‘I’m not a great fan of that myself, though,’ said Alice. ‘I’ve found that if you give way at all, it only encourages them.’

‘Ah,’ said Reg. ‘So what did you do?’

‘My favourite way of locking down my position is to give them three options and I nudge them gently towards the one that I think is best. But I try to give them the feeling that they made the decision. They like that.’

Reg smiled.

‘And the other thing I do,’ Alice said. ‘I learned this from a friend of mine. I write the minutes of the meeting before the meeting.’

Before the meeting?’

‘Yeah. Before I went in today, I wrote the minutes. Here, I’ll show you.’

Alice turned to her screen. Reg came over and stood behind her. She brought up a document and sure enough, there it was:

‘1 The meeting agreed on option two – hire six more people and bring the project in in eleven months.’

‘It keeps me focussed on the result I want,’ said Alice. ‘I do it before all meetings now. It really works.’