Rule 8: "Beam Us Up, Scotty"
This rule is so important and is poorly understood in most organizations that we have worked with. It really deals with risk management.
However, just as Rules 1 and 2 stated, many executives operate in an information vacuum . In 1998, studies by Accenture revealed that two thirds of business executives did not understand the issues of risk management in IT projects. Worse, of the one third that did understand the risk management issues with IT projects, 50% said that they were not satisfied with the risk management processes that they had in place!
It constantly amazes us that many organizations would use "best practice" due diligence and corporate governance procedures when faced with a low-risk acquisition of a company for $50,000,000 and yet approve a high-risk IT project of $50,000,000 with no formal business or project risk assessment. More interesting, the same organization appoints an inexperienced project sponsor who has multiple projects to oversee as well as managing a functional business unit.
This situation that is familiar to many project managers (it is mentioned by people at every project management workshop our group conducts) provides the framework for a powerful rule.
You should never undertake a project ( especially a high-risk one) without a formal, written, and public contingency plan agreed to by your project sponsor. This is your "Beam me up, Scotty" position.
If you have a formal business or IT project risk management process, this will already be part of the process. However, for those of you who don't have access to such a process, it involves two key considerations: What are the situations that could arise in your project that would place your project at risk of total failure? Should these situations arise and your attempts to solve the situation directly and by asking for assistance fail, what are you entitled to do as a fallback?
Clearly, the best time to negotiate your fallback position is at the beginning of the project (when you have full control over all your faculties ). You need to have agreed on a "Beam us up, Scotty" position with your sponsor. For example, you have been asked to undertake a project and you are already aware that the project sponsor is too busy and is going to delegate responsibility to one of his or her minions (see previous rules). You should have already figured out that Rules 1 and 2 are likely to be in play as a result.
Simply document, as a result of the decisions being made by the real sponsor, the impact on the project and the consequences of those impacts, as discussed in Rule 7. However, you should also document clearly that if no action is taken or the actions taken fail to resolve the impact of the risk, then there is a point in the project plan where a fallback strategy will be put into place.