We live in difficult times: The Corona pandemic, the Ukraine war, supply chain bottlenecks, lack of skilled personnel, and some other unpredictable events are frame conditions that worry many managers and make them consider whether they should start, continue, or better put planned investments and projects on hold. Many companies currently set up contingency plans for different scenarios to be prepared for eventual situations.
One of my latest mandates dealt with this challenge: A strategic important program had been started last year with ambitioned objectives and future-oriented benefit potential. The time-to-market was critical to exploit the advantages of technology leadership. But first problems already arose with staffing because the recruiting initiated didn’t cite the expected results necessary to meet the sportive progress targets. In addition, recrudescing Corona dropouts decimated the core teams. What to do if you don’t want to give up your business-critical objectives?!
My „gimmickry“ had a proven tool at hand: The good old “Magical Triangle”, this time built from time, scope and resources (instead of cost). You can change one component which influences both others. In this case time was the most critical, resources were the variables, and thus the achievable scope the result. This meant that we in the team with the management had to define a prioritization of the desired achievements, aligned with the expected business benefits of these components. We were guided by a value benefit analysis as simple as possible, but we could have practiced this even much more granular.
In the following we implemented our prioritization’s results by means of a modified portfolio methodology into a flexible program and resource planning fit for different scenarios. In less complex projects also a frequently revalidated backlog would do. With the resources available we then could start, drive, and with every new or recovered team member scale realization. When I left the program the realistic planning for realization was at ca. 80% of the initially prospected scope, enough to enter the market promising.
The example shows that it is feasible even in uncertain times to set up and plan important initiatives in such a structured way to be able to react on many scenarios quick and precisely fitting without having to bury the business goals. Other cases of risk to intercept are disturbed supply chains or material or energy lacks getting worse by external crises. The constraints may be different, but they can be tackled and watched the same way, may be multivariate.
But in each case, when budgets are under scrutiny, and cuts would force you to set your project on hold, it is considerable to continue with reduced scope or speed rather than to roll off a good team. Part-time resources continuing on low effort would also save expenses and may be preferable over a complete freeze and ramping up new resources when the project resumes.