While managing my first large project I found myself facing a very serious dilemma. Should the project be paused in order to conduct some much-needed planning or should we simply keep going and not lose even one day to a planning session?
Some of my stakeholders were in favor of taking a brief project timeout in order to have an offsite project planning session and the rest of them thought this was a bad idea and a waste of time. They were almost evenly divided. I was right in the middle of the debate and I had yet to form an opinion. This is what I knew:
- The project had started without a project manager (a first sign of danger).
- A scope document had been written and approved, but no estimating had been completed (a second sign of danger).
- There was a hard deadline and if we missed the deadline it would cause significant and expensive disruptions to the business (a third sign of danger).
Those in favor of taking a pause for a planning session pointed out that we had no idea whether or not we would make the date. Those opposed to the delay felt it was best not take time away to pause the work and discuss it. Their perspective was, “Keep your heads down and work as hard as you need to in order to make the date.”
Nobody wanted to take responsibility (yet another sign of danger), for making the decision. The decision was in my hands and the implications were clear. If I held the planning session and it caused us to miss our date that would be my fault. If I did not hold the planning session and we missed our date that would be my fault. Stuck between the proverbial rock and a hard place, I risked the anger of my sponsor and called for the planning session. I opted to delay the project. A one-day pause for the entire team where we would work to create a work breakdown structure, create project estimates and a clear schedule.
Fortunately this story has a happy ending. We learned that we would be able to make our date. We learned the value of a strong work breakdown structure, good estimates and a well-defined schedule. At the end of our day-long planning session, my sponsor stood up and told the entire room that he had not been in favor of us taking this day away from the project. He then stated that he now saw the value in that project delay and that he was happy that we had taken this brief pause.
Sometimes what your project needs is a pause, a delay.Sometimes you gain more ground when you take a moment to stand still.