In the life of every project manager in the world, there are moments in which the client will ask an apparently innocent and well-intended question: “Is it possible to do this additional feature?”. This question may be followed by the words “I don't think it will take much additional time” or “it is only a small change”.
Many of us face that moment and most of the time, either for being flexible with the client, willing to keep him or her happy, or even trying to rescue a fragile relationship, we end up saying “No problem”. However, a precedent is set wherewith each small change we will be (morally) forced to say yes to further requests. This case is seen even more when the work's scope is previously defined at the beginning of the project or when the service contracts are limited only to certain activities.
At first sight and in the short term, it does not seem to affect much since these are changes or small additional things. But, throughout the entire project and throughout that working relationship, the sum of all of them can really become a problem. In my own experience, this is a fact, this is how it will be.
What can we do? How can we avoid these situations? Simple: just say “NO”.
We have to lose the fear of saying “No”. Saying it does not make us less appreciable or less reliable; many times it is the opposite. The client appreciates getting his project back on track so that it can come out on time and in the way he requested from the beginning. We need to get of sure of this, even when it means going against themselves.
Be brave and do it. Just be careful. Saying “No” doesn’t mean that we have to be rude. We must be empathic and explain how the final goal will be impacted if we accede to that specific request.
The formula is simple. Say “No” to additional requests, but always listen to the reasons why the client makes them. Remember that being in this position of closeness makes us their advisers. If the client is there, it is because they trust that we can translate their needs into the product they require. We are the face of a team of experts and sometimes saying “No” is a way of protecting the client, the project, and your company.