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I want to completely 180 the project I am working on and take it in a brand new direction, how can I best bring this up with my boss?

Background:

I am a 3rd year coop student on my first placement and I am about halfway though my 8 month term. For the last four months I have been working primarily on a project outlined by my boss and for the most part things seems to be going well. I don’t know how normal this is but I am working on it completely by myself, it is a very small company and my boss basically gave me a rough outline and told me to dive in. I haven’t been given any sort of timeline or budget but I have been able to buy a few small things as required. The issue is that last week I hit a wall and the next step in my project is well beyond my skill level and way outside my area of study. At the same time I had an idea for a new direction to take the project in, I’m talking a full 180 here.

I would like to turn this project around because I think the current plan fails to address our number 1 concern and in turn would create a few new problems. My new idea for this project is also not perfect and doesn’t solve every issue but it would fix our primary concern without creating any new ones. The changes I want basically make the last 4 months of work I’ve done irrelevant which is something I really don’t know how to tell my boss.

I really don’t want to come across as an arrogant hot shot student but I really do want my idea considered seriously, it’s a solid idea and probably worth some thought I just don’t know how to bring this up. When I’ve talked to my boss about small tweaks he has seemed reluctant consider to them so I don’t know what he will make of my idea to completely 180 my project, especially now that I am 4 months deep.

I know that my personal happiness is secondary here but I would be much happier redirecting my project and working towards something that I know I can succeed with and will result it a better final product (IMHO), I finally understand the expression between a rock and a hard place.

  • Can you 180 your project and complete it in 4 months? How do the endpoint and scope differ? – CKM Apr 24 '17 at 20:07
  • I probably can't finish in 4 months if I 180. But I will end with something closer to a final version if I change paths rather then trying to continue on this current path – Gareth Lastname Apr 24 '17 at 20:12
  • 180 degrees is usually not advisable. 90 degree is often better. 360 degrees is useless. – gnasher729 Apr 25 '17 at 0:18
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    Don't forget that if your experienced manager didn't foresee these problems with the current project, you could very easily be missing equal or greater issues with your own idea. And it's very likely that, like the rest of us, you're underestimating the time required by a factor of four or so. Definitely take this up with your manager, in a respectful, "I'm a noob, so tell me if I'm missing anything here, but..." kind of a way. – Ed Plunkett Apr 25 '17 at 1:12
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To address your question, from your manager's point of view, they would be most concerned about whether or not you will be able to complete the project by the end date. If you believe you would be able to completely 180 and still finish the project on time, then you should bring this up with your boss. If not, it is unlikely that your boss would want an unfinished project at the end of your coop term so you are better off continuing on your initial plan and delivering a finished product.

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    I think it's also reasonable to say, verbatim from OP: "I hit a wall and the next step in my project is well beyond my skill level and way outside my area of study," and see if he can get some positive mentoring. Beyond skill + outside comfort zone = real learning. – CKM Apr 24 '17 at 20:16
  • @CMosychuk I want to learn as much as possible, that's why I am in a coop program, my concern is that in this small company there is no one with the knowledge I am looking for. At the end of they day I want to be able to present something that works – Gareth Lastname Apr 24 '17 at 20:23
  • Did you try stack overflow for other solutions? – xLCaliburn Apr 24 '17 at 20:26
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    @xLCaliburn That is where I have spent my last week :) What I've learned is that what I want to do is uncommon and hard to do. – Gareth Lastname Apr 24 '17 at 20:28
  • Well.. from your manager's point of view, the deadline is king. Even redoing it 180 does not guarantee that it will go smoothly and I really doubt your manager will be too happy about that. I feel like your best bet is to keep digging and see if you can make a workaround that does not require a rewrite. Also, make sure you also let your boss know about your roadblock as it may be possible for your boss to change the requirements. – xLCaliburn Apr 24 '17 at 20:34

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