Man taking a big hit at a slapping competition.
Do you wonder why the competitors always do this shirtless?

You know what is refreshing and fun? Yep, you guessed it! A fat slap in the face by life.

Time to pick yourself up off the floor and get back to it. Setbacks happen, but they cannot break you. I used this slapping competition image to illustrate that. While this guy obviously loses the matchup, he won’t be down forever and neither will you. He will get back up, in an hour or so, and decide to change his goals. And that is what you should do too.

Let’s carry this example into our professional projects.

You expertly lay in the project requirements, timelines, work required and teammates into your preferred project management tool. You rally the troops and dole out work assignments. Time passes, all is going smoothly. Then it happens…

The project gets canceled, a major revision goes wrong, the dev team has no bandwidth to complete it, etc. The project is now in disarray. What to do next? Well to be blunt, pick up the pieces and move on. Not so easy you might say. It’s not always easy to drop a project you have worked on for awhile. Time to reformat that unloved project into something new!

I had a project like this once. It wasn’t a total disaster, it was massively altered by the stakeholders. It was a team project for to improve some key metrics on a site. We salvaged the work we had done already by adding it into the new project needs. Our project originally was slated to restructure a website landing page and provide user flows to improve a couple key metrics. Our team had put in a bunch of work over a couple months, researching and ideating the perfect way to display content and structure how people would donate and get involved.

That is when the stakeholders decided to revise the entire site and restructure all the content. And boy did they have a lot of content. Our project went from manageable to overly complex in seconds. Now we were in charge of all the content and rebranding the entire site. No big deal, but we hadn’t planned for that in the beginning so it came as a revelation of “what have we got ourselves into?”

We pivoted. A new plan was formulated. We took our existing work and fitted it in with all the new work that was needed. We went back to the project management app and added in new timelines, goals, elements and work needed. We got back to it without missing a beat and the end result turned out great. So much so that the stakeholders loved it.

Hopefully all project upsets are that easy to manage and overcome. It may depend on the resources available, or the will of the team to excel. Sometimes it’s just you alone, fighting for your due. In those cases, it is imperative that you advocate for yourself. Like the man in the title picture, no one can compete for you, win or lose, it is on your shoulders. So what are your weapons in this fight?

Data and research. These can be your strongest assets in the fight to maintain your position or keep the project intact. We all know that data, when correctly interpreted, can make the argument. Trying to persuade with feelings and opinions will get you nowhere, we all realize this. So have your data ready.

On the other hand, if there is no changing the course of things, then you need other assets: Adaptability and quick learning. Pivoting and finding the resources you need to succeed are crucial to saving a project from death. One-man teams and freelancers will tell you how difficult it is to have the rug pulled out from under them on a project. Lets say your vision is not the same as the stakeholders and you quickly find yourself out of favor, and out the door!

If you want to save your project (and your paycheck) you need to course-correct quickly. It is impossible to speak specifics here since no two projects are alike. That challenge is up to you to solve. Learn new skills, rethink all your ideas, use different tools, etc. The key is to adapt quickly and come back to the table with a new plan. Hopefully one that will win back the project, even if the terms or goals are different.

The theme of this article is that there is no single way to succeed. You must be adaptable, quick-thinking and determined to win. Those are key skills to have and continually develop. Keep your mind open to new ideas and tools, always try something new or learn a new skill. Step outside your comfort zone once in awhile. Times are changing quickly. Be prepared for whatever comes next or be left in the dustbin of history. You have probably heard this all before, but it helps to be reminded once in awhile.

We all will encounter setbacks occasionally. Put in the hard work, back it up with solid numbers and when that fails be prepared to change or challenge. Sometimes you have to roll with the hits. Sometimes you have to get back up and slap someone back.