Happy Endings: One of the most important project management principles that never gets talked about


  • New business. In order to get new business, people (and companies that don’t know you) will ask for references from past clients.  If you don’t have Happy Clients who have had Happy Endings then you have nobody to use as references for these prospective clients.  Without happy clients and happy endings, it becomes extremely difficult to get new clients and new business.
  • Repeat business. The best, easiest, and most efficient way to get money and more money is to get it from current clients, known clients, whom you have already developed a trustful relationship.  It is so hard to get new money from somebody who doesn’t know you or trust you.  But, it is so much easier to get more money from clients who do know and trust you.  But, that will only happy if you have had a happy ending from a happy client.
  • Cost recovery.  Often, when we take on a new client for the first time, because they do not know or trust you, they will require you to enter into a firm fixed-price contract.  In order to win that contract, you often have to bid low and hope for the best.  Usually, you underestimate the level of effort.  Most often, you end up losing money on the first engagement.  If you have a happy client with a happy ending then they are more likely to refer others to you and give you more business that will probably allow you to recoup some of the losses you incurred on the initial engagement.  Otherwise, if you don’t have a happy client with a happy ending then you will have done all the hard work, all the heavy lifting, and then somebody else will take over your project, take credit for your designs, take credit for your hard work, and profit thereinafter.
  • Last impression.  The last impression a client has of you is how the project ended and that memory is what will still around.  It is super important that the relation end on a happy note and that you end with grace so they have fond memories of you and you can use them as positive references for past performance.

Needless to say … happy endings are crucial.


  • Manage scope from day one. Don’t allow new things to slip into the sprints, even the little things add up
  • Pay attention to detail. Don’t die by 1,000 cuts. Instead, do 100 little things right.
  • Focus on quality. Focus on usability. Don’t let things slip.
  • Estimate conservatively. Over estimate the time and effort that will be required.
  • Keep clients informed and updated of progress, status, burn down rate, burn chart.
  • Listen to clients.
  • Remain professional, tactful, cool, calm, collected at all times.
  • Approach projects using an iterative, agile methodology.
  • Structure your contracts in an agile way.
  • Follow the USDS Playbook.

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