How to work with a client who has a new idea every day

You have your project plan approved. It was a tough job to get to it. You finally have it nice and shiny on your dashboard and want to proceed according to plan. That might not be your client/stakeholder’s reality though. They might think that the plan is a thing of the past and after their morning coffee (or last night drink) they have new bright ideas about the product they want. And they will share it by email, sms, whatsapp, skype and whatever apps they have on their phone. Hello, roller coaster of ideas!

No panic, as my swimming instructor says. There are a couple of strategies you can make use of.  Make sure your client does not read this. 

  1. Use you empathy and knowledge of human nature. Most likely, your client/stakeholder is a creative type and you are an action-oriented person (as most project managers). Use this cognitive diversity to the advantage of the project and to enrich the relationship with the client. 
  2. Do an inventory to see which ideas require actual actions. Some people are just happy to share their ideas. You might discover that some are visions or lighthouses. Use them in visuals. In full transparency, share your plans for ideas which are for immediate follow-up and which can be parked. 
  3. If your client/stakeholder is restless, then you might need to equip yourself with an expectations management strategy. There are a variety you can employ: explain the time commitment on the team and project – would implementing the new idea require team members to put aside the tasks they are committed to already? would any other new resources be required? etc. Depending on the mind-set of the originator of the idea, they might buy into the ‘costs argument’ . 
  4. Remember that the project’s plan is your anchor and reference point. It is a documented list of current and foreseen priorities. If the priorities keep changing, it is likely that a new steering committee of the project will need to be called upon to discuss and agree on which priorities are for the project to keep. 

Working with a client who is a fountain of new ideas can be stimulating. It can also be frustrating or draining. By applying these strategies you can enhance your ability to leverage ideas into workable solutions and keep the sanity of your mind. 

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