This is something I shared via email yesterday with a young lady I’m coaching, and I thought it might be useful to some of you here. The situation she was facing was a ridiculous ask with an equally ridiculous deadline: a clickable hi-fidelity prototype consisting of 200 new screens, due in 2 weeks.

Here’s what I advised:

In situations where all work requested cannot possibly be accomplished in the time allotted, you have to hold firm on the fact that something has to give. Meaning you need:

1. More personnel (e.g. hire freelance UI designers/developers),

2. More time to do the work, or

3. Less screens.

Don’t agree to anything else.

If they insist this all has to be done, every single screen, send an email — not a phone call, not a meeting — to all involved parties and say something like this:

“With all due respect to everyone involved, I want to go on record as saying that I do not believe we will be able to complete this 200-screen hi-fidelity prototype in 2 weeks.

The only way this scope is possible is if we add X number of additional outsourced designers/developers to the project. And even then, given the time to get everyone up to speed, we’ll likely still fall short of this mandate.

We will work as hard as humanly possible and we want nothing more than to do our best. But reality is that the scope of the request is very unrealistic and far too large. we do not have the personnel or the time to complete this task, so I want everyone to be aware up front that this work will remain unfinished 4 weeks from now.

I’ve explained that there is no way we can complete this much work in the time allotted. Management, however, is insisting that it must be done. So I am saying all this now so that we are all prepared, and so that no one gets an unpleasant surprise 4 weeks from today.”

This HAS to be an email.

You want a record that you can point to in the event fingers are pointed when the work isn’t completed. And because it’s all documented in an email, no one can say you didn’t warn them.

Trust people — but always protect yourself first. That means documented evidence of everything and anything you or anyone else agrees or disagrees with, particularly when a finger can be pointed at you after the fact.