Nothing slows a project team quite as well as a pathological scenario or a person focused on that scenario. There is a huge chasm between the due diligence of “what if” questions that are likely possibilities worthy of consideration and the terminal scenarios that will, more than likely, never happen. The goal as a Project Team leader, or any manager for that matter, is to quickly separate the two and move on with the real issues. Too often, equal time and weight is given to both scenarios.
In fact, that nearly happened to me this week. I spent about 2 hours in a meeting discussing various topics and questions when a pathological expounder forced the whole group to spend 20 minutes on a crazy “what if” scenario. This leads to critical slow downs and ultimately analysis paralysis. I was lucky to defuse this situation before it ate up the whole meeting.
So, the next time someone asks a “what if” question, ask a few of your own. How likely is this? What is the foundation for the question and what is the impact? By asking these simple questions you will force the person to evaluate their questions more clearly which removes the emotion and fear that typically drive these issues. Now, you have given logic a chance, which gives your projects better focus and makes them more likely to succeed. Any questions?