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 themorganization 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.
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. Top Next Issue
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Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming October 4: Self-Importance and Conversational Narcissism at Work: I
- Conversational narcissism is a set of behaviors that participants use to focus the exchange on their own self-interest rather than the shared objective. This post emphasizes the role of these behaviors in advancing a narcissist's sense of self-importance. Available here and by RSS on October 4.
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