Negotiate for Realistic Project Goals



Clients, executives and stakeholders may pressure you you to commit to an unrealistic project schedule or demanding project goals that you know are not achievable. This could be because they are looking to maximize the productivity of the project, or more likely because they are also responsible for a deadline and your project is a part of that. In these situations, there will be pressure to commit to a schedule or target that you know is highly improbable or even impossible to deliver. Under these circumstances, it is critical to negotiate for realistic goals rather than making a commitment you cannot keep. Here are some ideas to help you be prepared for those negotiations

Battling for realistic goals requires that you know what is achievable. If your team has prepared a schedule, study it carefully, analyze the assumptions and double check all the estimates. Supplement your analysis with any historical data from similar projects that have been completed in the past. Having confidence in your estimates will empower you to stand firm when clients, executives or stakeholders push for a commitment that is not possible. Being able to reference historical data that supports your position will also help you be credible and more persuasive as you negotiate.

Don’t say no, but rather reply with choices for achieving the outcome they want. This is an effective negotiation technique because it places the responsibility back to them which will drive a more reasonable conversation. To do this, mentally prepare a few trade-off scenarios in advance of potential negotiations with stakeholders. For example, if stakeholders pressure you to deliver your 1-year project in six months, suggest that is may be possible to achieve that but only if you get more people and more budget to work on the project. Then actually ask them if you can get X more people and Y amount in additional budget at a specific date?

You may also want to suggest that the project’s quality or the project’s scope will need to be reconsidered in order to meet their new demand. For example, if being pushed to complete an effort with less budget or less staff, probe to see if they are prepared to accept a lower-quality project or whether they would be satisfied with fewer features. For example, ask what functionality they are willing to sacrifice in order to cut the budget or ask whether they would be willing to accept a higher rate of failure than it was originally scoped in order to cut the headcount. Presenting them with choices like these and driving them to make trade-off decisions will force a more reasonable discussion.

If you anticipate being pressured to deliver something that is not realistic, be prepared to negotiate with good intent, but do not make a commitment you know you will not be able to achieve. Executives or stakeholders may be pushing you to change some of the dimensions of the project but, if you are properly prepared, you can negotiate with them to find reasonable and mutual ground. To do this, it is important that your estimates are solid and that you can provide them choices for achieving their demands but also the trade-offs those choices will require.


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Software Development Methodologies Timeline

The Software Development Methodologies Timeline illustrates the evolution of software development from the 1960s. It marks the years when the most significant methods emerged into the field.

The timeline categorizes each software methodology into a primary class that includes Agile, Structured Programming, Object Oriented, Waterfall, Engineering and Team Paradigms.

To quickly create similar PowerPoint timelines for personal, academic or business communications, we recommend using the free Office Timeline add-in which can also be used to edit and update the Software Development Methodologies timeline PowerPoint slide.


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Kick-off Project Planning with a High-Level Schedule

Having a high-level project schedule prior to planning a project is a useful technique for kicking-off project planning. Starting all planning discussions with a model of the project schedule will get the team focused on the right things and allow them to iterate it, which will ultimately produce an accurate and comprehensive final schedule.



Your high-level schedule should be clear and easily understood by all parties and stakeholders involved in the project. Creating one should be done prior to other activities because it will serve as the starting point for the structured, definitive project planning that will follow. Remember, the dates and tasks in your high level plan needn’t be absolutely firm because they will change through the planning process.

In the following post, we will provide 5 steps for creating a high-level project schedule that you can use to kick off project planning:

1.List all of your tasks

Start by creating a list of tasks required in order to accomplish each deliverable of the project. This may seem intuitive, but it is often overlooked in favor of starting with a project scheduling application from the beginning. When creating a list of tasks you must also consider the amount of time it may take to complete each task and who will deliver the task. Knowing these variables will help you hone your estimate for each deliverable in the project, and ultimately help you model the project’s delivery date.

2.List your milestones

Milestones are often overlooked when creating project schedules and they shouldn’t be. Including high-level milestones on the initial schedule provides a measuring stick to evaluate the progress of the project. Given that milestones will be used by management and stakeholders to assess the project’s progress they should be included on your project’s high-level schedule. Start by identify the points of time or events that you recognize as important and add them. They can and probably will change later on, but making them visible during the earliest communications and conversations will add the perspective that the planning team needs.

3.Sequence your list

Sequencing is all about arranging the order your tasks will be delivered in. Some task can be done independently or simultaneously while other tasks will need to have a preceding task completed before they can begin. Look over your list of tasks and put them in the order that they need to be completed. Take note of which tasks are critical and which tasks are dependent on others. Knowing this will be useful in the more formal project planning stage when it comes time to identify the project’s critical path.

4.Group tasks together

Look over your list and find logical breakpoints. Group all the tasks between each of these breakpoints so your plan is a series of phases. For example, there may be a series of tasks related to analysis and feasibility which may fit into a Preparation or Proof of Concept phase, and then there may be a series of tasks relating to delivering the work, which may be a Deliver or Build phase. Finally, there may be tasks related to testing and iterating which could be a Test phase. Showing activities as phases will make it easier for audiences to think comprehensively through the project, rather than just seeing a single extended block of work.

5.Check deadlines

The schedule you have modeled will be a good way to check if the expected delivery date is realistic. If your high-level schedule is showing a delivery date that is significantly different from what management or stakeholders expect, begin making adjustments right away, prior to developing the comprehensive project plan. This may include presenting your high-level schedule to stakeholders in an effort to discuss a new date for the project’s delivery date or it may include reducing the deliverables of the project.

Starting the project planning process with a high-level schedule will give your team the perspective they need as you begin developing the more comprehensive final plan. Doing the work up-front to model a project schedule will ultimately lead to a more accurate and realistic project plan.


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Donald Trump Timeline



The Donald Trump timeline was made with the Office Timeline add-in for Microsoft PowerPoint. It marks significant milestones in Donald Trump’s personal, family, business and political career, culminating with his election as the 45th United States president in the 2016 US presidential race.

The Trump timeline tracks both his successes and failures over the past 5 decades and can be copied or reproduced for public use.

To quickly create similar PowerPoint timelines for personal, academic or business communications we recommend using the free Office Timeline add-in. It can also be used to edit or update the Donald Trump timeline PowerPoint slide.



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6 Basics for New Project Managers



Project Management is a deep and well documented practice with many brilliant books, blogs and organizations dedicated to it. However, if you are new to project management and are merely looking to learn some basics for successfully managing a project, we recommend these 6 fundamentals:

1. Know the purpose

It is important to understand what the real goal of the project is. For example, if you are responsible for implementing a new tech-support ticketing system, is the goal to help increase the productivity of your tech support team or is it improve low customer satisfaction scores? Once you understand the real goal of the project and what success looks like you can better determine how to plan and how to execute it.

2. Nail the scope

It is also important to precisely define the project’s scope. Continuing our example, does your project scope include defining the selection criteria and selecting brand new ticketing system software or will that be done prior. Determining what is in scope and what is out of scope will not only have a huge impact on the work required but also how your success will be measured.

3. Detail the deliverables

Once you have defined the scope it will be critical to break the scope down into the things that must be delivered. Furthering our example project of implementing a new tech support ticketing system, one of the things that must be done is to install a new data base. This should be defined in detail so it is clearly understood by the person or team who will deliver this work. You will need to identify all the project deliverables and define them in this way.

4. Plan Properly

With the deliverables properly defined it will be easier to determine what activities, resources and budget will be required for completing the project. To properly plan your project you will need to determine what activities or tasks are required to achieve every deliverable, and you will need to determine the amount of time required to complete each task. It will also be important to identify which task are dependent on other tasks. In our example we may not be able to complete the task of installing the new data base because that task is dependent on another task, procuring new data base hardware. Finally, you will need to put the entire project plan on a schedule by assigning dates to each of the tasks.

5. Share your plan

Now you have a project plan that is a schedule of clearly defined deliverables which have been properly scoped and properly aligned with the business goals. You know the plan very well but it needs to be shared with the project team and stakeholders. Team members will need to know exactly what is expected of them, when it is due and how it interrelates with work others are doing. Communicate the plan often so team members stay focused on the activities they have been assigned.

6. Review progress

When the project is underway, it will be important to monitor the progress of you plan and to report this progress back to your executives. You will need to periodically check the project against its planned cost and schedule. This will allow you to calculate and report the variance between the actual execution and the as-planned execution. Once you identify and understand any variance from the original plan you can make necessary adjustments to the project’s scope, schedule or budget.

New project managers will find that these 6 fundamentals are relevant to any project they are assigned, regardless of size and complexity. Becoming proficient in each of these areas will increase your chances of successfully delivering your project on budget and on time.


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