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Every Project Needs 3 Plans: An Upside, Regular, and Downside

Not being able to plan ahead, not being able to visualize success – both are critical stumbling blocks in any attempted project. But not understanding the consequence of failure is potentially the worst downside of going into a project “blind.” In an article for 99U, Hamza Khan compellingly recommends conducting a “pre-mortem” of the project in question.

Paths to Glory, Mediocrity…Failure

A pre-mortem consists of three parts – an upside, a regular, and a downside. About the upside, Khan writes:

If everything clicks and you even get a bit lucky, what’s the likely outcome of your project? World domination? A successful product launch? A bestselling book? If this “upside” case isn’t very compelling, you might not want to embark on the project in the first place—or at least you might calibrate the level of investment.

A “regular” scenario might be something like hitting a golf ball onto the fairway instead of into the rough or onto the green. You can’t consider the outcome a spectacular success, but hey, at least the objective has been adequately met. What does that look like for your team?

Lastly, there is the downside. Don’t be afraid to map out the scenario where your project takes a “fatal” turn. In other words, if things go horribly wrong, will you end up dead (financially, reputation wise, etc.) or will you survive to climb out of the wreckage?

Traversing the Project

Once you set expectations in this three-layer fashion, it’s time to move the project forward. But the process isn’t over yet. You’ll need to manage expectations by clarifying goals, sharing notes, and delivering bad news early, in order to keep everyone on the same page.

Running a successful project is about stepping up to a threshold of possibilities and, team in tow, traversing that thicket of variables to arrive at the desired location. Having an upside, regular, and downside scenario in mind will give you and your team the mental map necessary to always know where you stand, whether it is high-and-dry or knee-deep in the mud.

Read the original article at:

About Eric Anderson

Eric Anderson is a staff writer for CAI’s Accelerating IT Success. He is an intern at Computer Aid Inc., pursuing his master’s degree in communications at Penn State University.

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