Is negativity ruining your project? Two tools to help turn negativity into a positive.

I have been guilty of getting into the perfectionist trap.  For every potentially positive change I’ll think of 100’s of ways that it could go wrong. 

Maybe you’re not like that, but you have a vocal pessimist on your project team.  I’ve experienced that too.  The type that believes nothing will work. 

Rather than trying to extinguish these types of thoughts or communications I recommend embracing them.  They can have surprising value when combined with the right tools.  The first is a common tool in project management or risk assessment.  The second is my own.

Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (FMEA)

The Failure Modes and Effects Analysis or FMEA is a tool commonly used in project management or risk assessment.  Green Belts or Black Belts that have projects reviewed by me can attest that I require an FMEA in a DMAIC project. 

When dealing with negativity or pessimism I recommend using this as a brainstorming tool. 

Deal with it head on.  List what could fail and every way that it could fail.  Document what could cause the failure and any controls that are in place to prevent it.  Encourage people to get it off their chest and on to the list.  This exercise starts clearing the mental space needed for successful change.

Next you’ll score each item on the list for the severity of a failure (no impact is a low score and death is the highest score), how often the failure may occur (never occurring gets a 0 here and always occurring gets a 10), and your ability to detect the failure (no ability to detect is scored 10 and definite ability to detect is a 0). 

Now multiply the three scores to get the RPN or Risk Priority Number.  Stacking your list by the RPN will allow you to start assessing the items with the highest risk.  Brainstorm actions to take to improve (lower) the RPN and who is responsible for the action.

Success Modes and Effects Analysis (SMEA)

Having gotten the negativity and pessimism out of the way by documenting it, we can now turn the mental space toward positivity and seizing opportunity.  Rather than concentrating on failure, let’s concentrate on success. 

Just like in the FMEA we’ll document every way we could experience success, the ways success could happen, and the controls that are in place to maximize the impact of success.  Think in terms like, “What will we do if this our success here leads to more customers than we are prepared to handle?” 

Again you’ll score each item on the list for the severity of a success (no impact is a low score and overloading the system is the highest score), probability the success may occur (never occurring gets a 0 here and always occurring gets a 10), and your ability to detect the success (no ability to detect is scored 10 and definite ability to detect is a 0). 

Now multiply the three scores to get the SPN or Success Priority Number.  Stacking your list by the SPN will allow you to start assessing the items with the highest impact.  Brainstorm actions to take to improve (lower) the SPN and who is responsible for the action.

These two tools are very effective at changing the mental space of an individual or a team from one of negativity and pessimism to one of positivity and optimism.  Use them the next time you feel in that trap or to deal with an especially negative person on your project team.