When the wrong answer is the right answer

When the wrong answer is the right answer

Any project manager will tell you that investing without a business case is fool’s errand.

Now I don’t mean a financial business case; indeed I find that I prefer the Prince 2 term ‘initiation document’. Whatever you call it, preparing this document helps you explore, structure and succeed in your project – the financials are just one of many outputs.

In an interim assignment, a business contracted Delta Swan Limited (DSL) to deliver two in-flight projects. I was looking forward to it, mainly because I assumed the projects were with proper requirements and understanding. I was disappointed.

The two projects were slightly different beasts. The second (I want to quickly mention this before getting onto the first) was running with a development team and I joined the team meetings. Although their project management practices were a bit ropey they were doing a good job of moving on tasks. And that was the problem. They had no business requirements, so they were making assumptions all over the place. Very quickly, I suggested that the business review its strategy for this project and provide proper requirements. While looking into my suggestion the business decided to put the project on hold – later cancelling it.

Back to the first project. This was a straightforward product introduction. But…Sales had created the delivery date and it had no planning behind it. I set about understanding the project and documenting my findings. I uncovered five major obstacles. As I managed these issues, the desired delivery date became increasingly less feasible. Once I was confident in my understanding, I presented two options Plan A – which relied on the early, less expensive resolution of one of the issues (travelling hopefully) and Plan B which assumed a late, expensive outcome (the probable result of travelling hopefully).

Plans A&B
Presenting the project plan using two scenarios helped the business understand the implications of making assumptions.

I kicked off the key activities (items on the critical path if you want the lingo) with robust task definitions, took the project through the concept gate and documented both scenarios ready for a definition gate.


I also realised that the organisation was not fully behind the project and the problem lay in a lack of shared vision for the market sector. So I designed and led workshops to build a strategy, including the changes the business must make for success.

Having killed one project and pushed back the other, the service DSL was contracted to deliver was no longer required and I suggested we end the contract early. I later found out that the business went with Plan C which is an early, negative outcome of one of the issues (by recognising the desired outcome was unlikely the business can go to market far earlier).

Plan C
Choosing Plan C has enabled an earlier entry into the market.


Key skills

Risk/ issue management – used interviews and team meetings to identify risks, researched to develop probability/ severity scores, worked with subject matter experts (SME) to develop robust management plans, budgeted for the risk management plans and built into the schedule

Governance – set up project gates and a steering group, presented to the Concept gate review and prepared for the Definition gate review

Project management – Business Case/ Project Initiation Document preparation, team building, scheduling (using a network diagram) and integrating sub plans in Microsoft Project, budget preparation

Strategy development – laid out the key requirements of a robust business strategy, facilitated workshops and assessments to propose a strategy and implementation plan to the board, wrote a strategy white paper and outlined board presentation pack for the strategy owner

Product development – integrated product team including purchasing and manufacturing, introduced product assessments, building a New Product Introduction process

Do you have a business critical project and need top-class project management? Contact us today to discuss your requirements and learn how Delta Swan can help.