Question: What do I do if an urgent request comes out of nowhere and it’s something so major that it would literally take months?
You must hypnotize the requestor into wanting what YOU want to give them, instead of the thing they’re asking for.
If this won’t work, you must involve management and hope that they’ll have your back instead of throwing you to the wolves. Sometimes they’ll get creative and help you put on a good dog-and-pony show, without actually having to deliver anything.
It’s often helpful to look at the drivers behind the ask. Why did this person think they needed an entirely re-written Solution X manual by Wednesday, and why didn’t they give you any lead time? Use this information to talk them off the ledge and into a more reasonable position. For example, they may be at the mercy of an external organization themselves, or may be trying to close out a project in order for a pilot project to move forward on time.
It also helps to understand the requestor’s world in general. What pressures or constraints are they under that are making them act so crazy? You can use this information to make them more persuadable and make yourself seem more plausible. Basically you are using empathy to establish a rapport and slowly bend them to your Will.
I have never been able to simply ignore ridiculous requests until they went away on their own, but this may at times be the most correct response.