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Ransomed Projects
By Thomas Cutting

It’s the week before go-live on a major initiative. Tests indicate that all requirements have been met, input feeds are working properly and output is as expected. Unfortunately there is a problem that is keeping you from going live. The business has determined that “just one more thing” is necessary before they sign off on the implementation, effectively holding the project ransom. What can be done?

First, remember who the project owner is. Although your department is responsible for making it happen, there must be a business purpose for it to be of value. Since it is their project, they have the right to put it in jeopardy.

Second, determine and communicate the impact of the change to the project. This includes the cost in money and schedule. With a week to go to implementation it is unlikely that any amount of money is going to have an impact. The real issue will be the schedule. Give a realistic assessment of the timeframe including adequate testing to ensure a success. It may not be the right decision in your eyes, but it is theirs to make. If this is a feud between different business groups, stay out of the middle of it. Give your advice and step aside.

Third, whatever is agreed to, make sure it is documented and approved. Include any decision to forego proper testing. This ensures that it is a conscious choice to move forward and that everyone is clear on the implications. Being the professional that you are I’m sure you will never use it to say, “I told you so.”

Ideally there is another level of management (i.e. Project or Program Management Office) that could help you present the case for moving the implementation date or negating the new requirement.

In extreme cases where the well being of the company is at stake, you may need to escalate the issue to upper management for arbitration. If this becomes necessary don’t do it anonymously or behind anyone’s back. Be honest with the team and explain why you are doing it. When possible request a meeting and include the key stakeholders in the discussion. Then keep it a discussion. Don’t let it become a shouting match where the loudest one gets their way and you loose your job.

In the end you will probably be required to do the impossible yet again and cram in the new requirement. The difference will be that it was an informed and supported decision not done through hostage negotiations.

Thomas Cutting, PMP is the owner of Cutting’s Edge ( and is a speaker, writer, trainer and mentor. He offers nearly random Project Management insights from a very diverse background that covers entertainment, retail, insurance, banking, healthcare and automotive verticals. He delivers real world, practical lessons learned with a twist of humor. Thomas has spoken at PMI and PSQT Conferences and is a regular contributor to several Project Management sites. He has a blog at (

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