Why Saying “No” Stinks

I have a five-year-old and one-year-old, and let me just say that saying no stinks. I hate telling the baby no because she understands what no means now. My older daughter is much more mature and can argue the point as to why no is not fair—and often times she is right.

Saying no stinks. When you have to make a decision on a project that stops a stakeholder from seeing their new requirement from happening it is hard to do. It is even harder when you have to end a project because it is a bad business decision.

The hardest project I have ever had to manage, and end, was the acquisition and integration of a new company. I worked at a large insurance company, and we acquired a group who had been subcontracting work for us. The work that they were doing was at a much lower cost than what we were able to deliver, and we wanted to capitalize on that. However, we also wanted to bring them into our corporate infrastructure, back office systems, and operational procedures.

As I scoped the project with the new company, we realized that we couldn’t see the efficiencies if we moved them onto our architecture as it was the systems they used that gave the cost benefit. After weeks of trying different ways with the team from the smaller company to calculate a solution that didn’t mean stopping work, we came to the realization that it just wasn’t possible. The numbers didn’t lie and there was no profit.

Telling senior management that there was no way to make that integration profitable was the hardest job I have ever done. Saying no meant that people were out of work, and we had to go an entirely different direction for the service solution. Saying no STUNK, but I knew that it was my job as a project manager to do that for the good of the company.

Oddly enough, it earned me the respect of the people in the organization who were let go. They knew that we had analyzed all of the opportunities, considered every alternative, and came to a conclusion that we didn’t like but had to admit. I don’t keep in touch with many people from the company who I was actually working for—I do keep in touch with the people who were in the acquired company because together we fought for a project that inevitably just couldn’t make it.

Sometimes the best teams you will ever have are the ones who fight the good fight but let go before achieving the goal. It is not a failure if a project never is completed if the right decision is to walk away. Finishing with no benefit is failure.

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