Quiz - How Not to Handle Project Negotiations


As a part of my project and portfolio management consulting practice I frequently get involved in advising various companies on how to run their real-life projects. Several years ago I was requested by a CEO of one organization to sit in a meeting where several stakeholders were supposed to discuss various aspects of the new "do-or-die" project. The ensuing conversation was so hilarious, that I excused myself from the room as soon as I could and recorded the entire exchange before it escaped my mind.

So, my challenge to you: how many estimation/negotiation handling mistakes were you able to spot in the following conversation?

John the project manager at the ABC Software Inc. a producer of e-Commerce software was preparing for a meeting with Dan, a VP of Sales and one of the original founders of the company and Sheila, a Senior Product Director. They were supposed to discuss the next major release of the company’s e-Merchant product.

Sheila: You know about the problems we had with the release 4.0 of this product. You guys were late by 3 months, went almost 50% over budget and delivered way less features that we expected. Besides even the stuff you did deliver had serious quality issues.

Dan: Yes, and because of all these problems we lost two of our customers and several others warned us not to contact them until we have e-Merchant 5.0 ready with all the necessary features …

John: Yes, I understand your concerns and that is why we decided to invest a bit more time in scope definition in order to be able to better estimate project size, risks and duration.

Dan: How much time are you planning to spend on requirements gathering?

John: We estimated that we would need about four weeks to elicit and document all the requirements and another week to for the team to conduct document inspections and generate estimates.

Sheila: This is unacceptable! I understand the process but we can’t afford to spend five weeks on scope definition. Can we somehow speed up the process? Besides I thought the scope has already been defined by our Marketing team.

Dan: Yes, and we also generated some preliminary forecasts based on our previous estimates on similar projects, so you probably don’t have to worry too much about that …

John: Well, I guess if we can’t wait that long the team will have to work with these inputs.

Dan: Also, keep in mind we have promised to our customers that e-Merchant 5.0 will be ready in six months

John: What?! Six months? But you know very well that our past release (e-Merchant 4.0) took us 10 months to deliver and release 5.0 is even larger … Why would you commit to six months?

Sheila: Look. John this is not really the time to argue about things. The customers are expecting a great quality product in six months. We all must roll up our sleeves and work harder to deliver it!

John: Well, we will see what can be done …


So, what mistakes did the participants in this conversation make? Please leave your comments below. I will provide my thoughts and how we addressed the situation in the next posting.

About the Author

Jamal Moustafaev, MBA, PMP – president and founder of Thinktank Consulting is an internationally acclaimed expert and speaker in the areas of project/portfolio management, scope definition, process improvement and corporate training. Jamal Moustafaev has done work for private-sector companies and government organizations in Canada, US, Asia, Europe and Middle East.  Read Jamal’s Blog @ www.thinktankconsulting.ca

Jamal is an author of two very popular books: Delivering Exceptional Project Results: A Practical Guide to Project Selection, Scoping, Estimation and Management and Project Scope Management: A Practical Guide to Requirements for Engineering, Product, Construction, IT and Enterprise Projects.