Point Lookout: a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting
Volume 23, Issue 18;   May 3, 2023: Personal Feasibility Decisions

Personal Feasibility Decisions


When considering whether to exploit a rare but desirable opportunity, there is a risk that desire can overcome good sense. Having at hand a predefined framework for making such decisions reduces the risk of blundering by acting in haste.
A red molded plastic zipper

A red molded plastic zipper. In busy organizations, scheduling projects is much like zippering a jacket closed. Schedules interlock. If even one zipper tooth moves out of place, the zipper won't zip. Even though you might find a way to make your project fit the crowded organizational schedule today, it's risky if the fit is too tight, because schedules change.

When we're offered opportunities to take on new projects, prudence requires that we ensure the feasibility of taking them on. Because considering these offers sometimes occurs under time pressure or political pressure, it's useful to have at hand a framework for pondering such decisions. This post proposes a "personal feasibility" decision framework. It's a good start, but you probably would alter what's here or add dimensions to make it a good fit for you.

If the opportunity entails delivering something of value to someone who will use it, ensure that you understand that user's needs, wants, and alternatives.
Needs and wants are rarely identical. As compared to needs, it's usually easier to communicate with the user about wants, and more difficult to satisfy them. Alternatives are important because your offering competes with the alternatives. Ideally, you'll be offering to meet a previously unidentified want that's truly needed, and for which there are only inferior alternatives. No opportunity is ideal in this market dimension, but it's good to know how to recognize one when it comes along.
Your own personal resources, or the anticipated resources the effort would need, must be available during the time period when they would be needed.
Consider any personal commitments or organizational efforts that would compete with this opportunity for time and attention. If you discover conflicting opportunities or commitments, try to rearrange things. A small schedule change can sometimes resolve the conflict. If you're unable to resolve the conflict, undertaking the opportunity could be a risky move.
Both the As compared to needs, it's usually easier
to communicate with the user about
wants, and more difficult to satisfy them
organization and you, personally, should already have — or should be able to acquire — all the knowledge, talent, or equipment required to exploit this opportunity successfully.
If you can identify capability gaps, consider what might be needed to close them. Rank them in severity, realistically. Search carefully for deal-breakers. In your search, beware cognitive biases, especially if the opportunity is rare and desirable.
The current array of resources, knowledge, talent, and equipment must be compatible with the needed resources, knowledge, talent, or equipment.
If somehow you were to acquire all that's needed, those acquisitions would need to be compatible with whatever you now have. For example, if you're permitted to hire the people you need, would you have the budget required to cover the cost of additional software licenses? Would IT be willing and able to support the new software tools?
Ensure that the probability of success is high enough, and foreseeable risks have been mitigated or can be mitigated.
Investigate the risks associated with the opportunity. If undertaking this effort alters the risk profiles of other efforts, either underway or anticipated, verify that the alterations are acceptable. Risk, in this sense, includes risks associated with organizational politics.

Last words

Finally, consider organizational politics. The foundational concept of the effort needs to be compatible with accepted beliefs about the organization's mission and the roles of the people who would be doing the work. Assure yourself that any political obstacles that remain have plausible resolutions. Go to top Top  Next issue: On Schedule Conflicts  Next Issue

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