One of my ex-CEOs told me once a story about situation he’d have to face when he’d been a newbie manager. Shortening the story (it’s dull anyway, you can just skip it) a bit there was serious hardware malfunction in a company. There were no spare parts on service stock and they were to deliver their services next day, which was impossible to do without working hardware. The manager felt he had to do something to get machines working again. Unfortunately there was virtually no chance for him to succeed. Company failed to meet their deadlines and he felt as it was partially his fault, which wasn’t true.
The moral of the story is:
A failure is an option. Face it.
By the way I’ve heard the story just after I finally rescued a project after 80-hour over-weekend battle with short brakes to get some sleep. Yes, it sounded totally irrelevant, but what would you expect from CEOs in that matter anyway?
The moral however is very wise. A failure is an option. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how hard you try there are objective obstacles you can’t deal with. It can happen even if you’re the greatest Project Management Superhero in the galaxy and the biggest projects eat from your hand.
If you ask me what to do, well, you won’t be surprised with the answer – prepare yourself. Sure, you can sit and cry your eyes out but you won’t get The Most Creative PM Technique Prize for that.
First thing is to acknowledge you can fail. To be honest most of managers don’t get through this one. You know, you need to tell your ego you’re not as perfect as you think. That’s a tough task. Especially if your ego is so big it goes 5 meters ahead of you.
Second, to have clean conscience, make sure you did everything you could to avoid failure before giving up. After all you’d prefer to be fairly sure you couldn’t make it, right?
Third, prepare rescue plan. When you’re finished with hitting the wall hard with your head, have a plan how to call for an ambulance. It was said already that crying over spilled milk or crushed head isn’t the best idea in the world.
I always smile whenever the reaction for question about potential problem is “we’ll manage, we’re superheroes, don’t ask” kind of approach. And believe me I see that a lot recently. I should have several great stories to tell soon.