Friday, May 07, 2010

Anatomy of a project delay

So I was playing a small part on a large program not to long ago that was marching to an impossible date. Late in the game, the senior executive decided to push the roll-out date by a month, recognizing that the original date was not achievable.

So my first question was, why did it take so long? I can understand keeping the pressure on, but I think there's a difference between an aggressive date and an impossible one. In one case it will motivate you to work hard, in the other, it will only discourage you. Did this decision maker not have the information needed to make an effective decision? Were people afraid to provide the information?

Of course the throw more bodies option was used at one point prior to the delay. Anyone who has tried this knows that this approach doesn't really work. Nine women can't have a baby in a month and you can only divide up a project so much before you're spending more time on overhead then on development, not to mention the increased complexity of communications.

I've seen a number of huge projects that go down in flames and every time I see a new one starting I have to wonder why. In some cases it may be necessary, but in many cases a better option might be to break the big program down into more manageable chunks. This will reduce the overhead, communications challenges, and impact to the organization.

4 comments:

Hercules Consulting LLC said...

Your general conclusion to break larger projects into smaller ones makes a lot of sense. Nevertheless there are some efforts that are big and need to be done in one big project or multiple well aligned smaller ones. In either case though it will be critical to have a good communication between the Project Sponsor and the overall Project Manager. Therefore I think it is critical for all Project Managers or CSMs etc. to be constantly focused on improving their own communication skills. In your example one question could be "What needed the Senior Executive to learn/hear to change their mind?" The idea is to ask yourself what communication worked in this situation and what can you do to become better at your communication, faster? Did an intellectual or an emotional argument work? Where was the final decison made? Which people were there? Conclusion: Communication skills are extremely important and need to be continously improved. That doesn't always provide the desired results but will improve your outcomes over time.

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robert said...

Therefore I think it is critical for all Project Managers or CSMs etc. to be constantly focused on improving their own communication skills.Project Management Software
In either case though it will be critical to have a good communication between the Project Sponsor and the overall Project Manager.