Selling a Tradeoff Matrix to Your Customer

ImageFor many years I have been training project managers to create a Tradeoff Matrix at the start of a project.  The matrix is a great tool for reaching common agreement across all stakeholders on the areas to be emphasized during a project.
Unfortunately I should know better than to start a conversation with any business partners with the words “tradeoff”.  From a PMs perspective it makes sense to say tradeoff.  From a customer  perspective tradeoff means “I don’t get what I want”.
To avoid this potential conflict we can speak to the customer in their own terminology, and with an emphasis on how the matrix helps them versus saying there will be limits on what they receive.
I have started telling the customer this is a Focus matrix.  I tell the customer, “Our goal is to deliver on time, within budget, with the scope you desire……but, if the project becomes compromised for any reason, what is your highest priority?”
The matrix helps the team think about your most important project attribute every day of the project, so they do not miss your most important area.  Do you want us to focus on the date?  Then we will make sure we code to the minimum spec. and work with you to make sure we only develop the minimal viable functionality.  Do you want us to deliver all of the scope you asked for from day 1?  Then we will bring in additional help and spend the time it takes to deliver your entire scope.
I think you get the point.  We can discuss a tradeoff matrix with stakeholders with a focus on benefits to them, versus the tradeoffs they may have to make to ensure project success.
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