Project Management

Five Flavors of Saying No

Do you have a hard time saying no? And if so, how many times have you subsequently hated yourself for saying yes? In the context of a project, managers who say yes too often are going to crush themselves and their teams underneath a pile of unending work. And even worse, being too loose with allowing scope changes will probably result in wasted work too. In other words, there is a lot to lose from not being able to say no to stakeholders. In a post at his website, Scott Berkun discusses five different “flavors” of no and how you can use them to take control back of your project.

Five Types of No

  • “No, unless it fits our priorities.”
  • “No, only if we have the time.”
  • “No, only if you make [impossible thing] happen.”
  • “No, next release instead.”
  • “Absolutely not.”

These different ways to say no will address basically every occasion that you want to turn down more work. And in most cases, they have the benefit of providing a clear reason why it has to be that way. You must say no to work that does not agree with project priorities and does not align with strategy. The person listening should understand that, and if not, direct that person to have a conversation with your sponsor (etc.). Likewise, sometimes requests made are actually good ideas, but there still is just not enough time leftover to work on them. This happens all the time, and it cannot be helped—as long as you can open your mouth and explain it as such. Alternatively, in the case of a project that has multiples releases (like with sprints), you can offer to take on the requested work at a later date, for a future release instead.

About the “No, only if you make [impossible thing] happen,” Berkun writes this:

Sometimes, you can redirect a request back on to the person who made it. If your VP asks you to add support for a new feature, tell him you can do it only if he cuts one of his other current priority 1 requests. This shifts the point of contention away from you, and toward a tangible, though probably unattainable, situation. This can also be done for political or approval issues: “If you can convince Sally that this is a good idea, I’ll consider it.” As you may know that Sally is unlikely to say yes, which sends the requester towards a dead end: but it’s a dead end that leads away from you.

Lastly, sometimes a request is just so fundamentally preposterous that you should shut it down fast and hard. Do not feel guilt over giving a hard no to an awful, project-sinking idea.

You can view the original post here: http://scottberkun.com/2018/the-many-ways-to-say-no/

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