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Dealing with Impossible Projects

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When we say "nothing's impossible," we usually mean that given unlimited time, unlimited resources, and really flexible performance standards, we can do anything. “Give me a lever long enough and a platform to rest it on, and I will move the world,” said Archimedes, but he was obviously not a project manager. Our projects are constrained: the iron triangle of resources, time, and mandatory scope are only three of the dimensions that restrict our options.

In project management, the question is whether the project is operationally possible, able to be done within the envelope of our constraints. As project managers, we know the importance of realistic budgets, schedules, and performance criteria, but let’s face it — we don’t always get the final word. Sometimes we get what we get and have to make do…somehow. Worse, we don’t always know what we’re really going to need. You can’t always tell up front whether the project can actually be accomplished under the current circumstances. By the time we know, it may be too late.

Managing impossible projects is something every project manager faces sooner or later, and in this stimulating, inspiring, and practical workshop attendees will learn how to:

  • Spot "impossible" projects early
  • Find creative solutions to many impossible problems
  • Make the business case for change
  • Kill the truly impossible ones before they get out of hand


Based on Michael Dobson’s book Project: Impossible, part of the “Lessons from History” series, this workshop explores some of the most famous "impossible projects" in human history — things that nobody would have thought possible until they were actually accomplished. Following in the footsteps of great project managers such as Julius Caesar, Charles Lindbergh, Robert Moses, and others, you’ll get the inside scoop on how the most brilliant minds in history solved the most intractable problems in the history of project management.

If it were easy, anybody could do it. If it’s impossible, they call in a project manager. Will you be ready?


By the end of this workshop, participants will be able to:

  • Diagnose whether a particular project is operationally possible.
  • Apply a multi-step model to potentially impossible projects to determine their essential issues and potential solutions.
  • Identify and analyze constraints that stand in the way of project completion, prioritize them, and assess their relative impact.
  • Identify “assumed constraints” and other negative assumptions that impact project success so that they can be modified in light of project reality.
  • Determine relative flexibility in constraints and assess different methods of using that flexibility to solve project problems.
  • Conduct “negative brainstorming” and other creativity techniques to find solutions to seemingly intractable problems.
  • Develop a business case for modification of project constraints and objectives.
  • Identify projects that are truly impossible or at least highly problematic so that they can be modified or cancelled before their costs get out of hand.



Project managers, project leaders, team leaders, managers, and general business professionals.


There is no prerequisite for this course. It functions as a stand-alone course.


Participants will receive a course binder containing copies of presentation slides and exercises.

course info

Course ID: 1603
Course Level: Intermediate
Duration: 1 day

upcoming sessions

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PMI Talent TriangleThe following table provides the breakdown of the professional development units (PDUs) for this course aligned with the PMI Talent TriangleTM.

  Tech. Ldrshp. Strat. & Bus.
PMP 1.25 3.5 2.25
PgMP 1.25 3.5 2.25
PfMP 0 3.5 2.25
PMI-ACP 1.25 3.5 2.25
PMI-SP 0 3.5 2.25
PMI-RMP 0 3.5 2.25
PMI-PBA 0 3.5 2.25

The three columns in the table are Technical Project Management, Leadership, and Strategic & Business Management.

Other Credits

Other professional (re)certification credits are available, including:

  • Certified Business Analyst Professionals (CBAPs) earn 7 CDUs (Category 2B)
  • Certified Software Quality Engineers (CSQEs) earn 1 RUs
  • CIPS Information Systems Professionals (ISPs) earn 7 Learning Credits
  • CIPS Information Technology Certified Professional (ITCPs) earn 7 Learning Credits