Recently, I have been getting the same question over and over again from people in many different companies and industries. It takes many different forms, but the basic idea is this:
“What should I do when I am being asked to deliver something without enough resources to do it?”
This challenge becomes a critical point for managers because you need to find a way to deliver the best possible outcome without setting yourself up to try to do something totally impossible (which by definition you will fail at).
The conversations you need to lead
If you go forth and try to make it happen without clarifying expectations and resources up front, you set yourself up for a big risk.
Conversely, if you say, “I don’t have the resources to do that” in an unstructured way, you might also take a credibility hit.
So what do you do?
Here are the three conversations you need to lead:
- Show the scope of the journey out of the hole you are in.
- Highlight the choices of outcomes and costs.
- Share the problem that WE have.
1. Show the size of the hole you're in
The problem is that the executives do not understand the scope of what they are asking. They are entirely focused on the outcome that they want, and they want you to make it happen.
To them it seems straightforward (cheap) to get the improvement, because they don’t fully understand why, or even that they are in a hole. They know they are not performing, but because they do not have your expertise, they can’t see the 37 reasons why.
If you don’t show them the reality, there is a good chance they will believe that only thing between where they are now and best in class performance is YOU, with no additional staff, budget, or time to get there.
Don’t let this happen. You need to act -- right away.
Create something that looks kind of like this. The left axis is whatever it takes to be competitive in your space:
2. Highlight the choices of outcomes and costs
You need to show the true cost of the big outcome they want.
Then you need to give the management choices for different levels of outcomes that cost different amounts.
OK, if you only increase my budget 10 percent, we can fix these things and add one item, but we can’t add most of the competitive features. If that’s the funding choice you make, this is what you will get.
The chart looks something like this:
This way you are still building credibility by showing that you can do the complete job, but you are not shooting yourself in the foot by signing up for the impossible.
3. Share the problem that WE have
The impossible is stressful!
Don’t put all the pressure on yourself to try to do the impossible without the necessary resources, because you will feel like you are personally failing when it can’t be done, when in reality this is not your problem alone.
This is a choice that the company needs to make.
Your job is to shine the spotlight on clearly defined choices.
Do yourself a favor and make sure you paint the reality clearly as soon as you can, and only sign up for as much as you can get funded.
- Share the knowledge of the scope of the journey.
- Share the decision about the level of investment and expected outcomes with the management team.
- Make sure everyone has the same definition of success. It’s not just you who should feel the pressure.
Editor’s note: Getting your leadership team to invest in your success is important, and Checkster can help with tools like the 360 Checkup, Reference Checkup, and Interview Checkup that help you streamline your hiring process -- as well as impact your bottom line.