Get things wrong: set a deadline.

Make it so...

I worked on Millennium Bug projects so I can appreciate a genuine deadline when I see one (let’s skip the fact it was either mostly a waste of time and money or a spectacular success which saved us all from disaster).  Given the collective legislative incontinence of governments worldwide there are often regulatory deadlines to be hit.

But – let’s face it – most deadlines are set for an entirely different reason… money.  People get paid by the hour, week or month and the longer things take the more it costs.  It therefore, follows that to save money, you save time and to save time you set a deadline.

Problem solved. Errrr… no.  This is where the problems start…

You have the following levers to fiddle on any endeavour: People, Money, Time, Scope.  By setting the deadline you’ve locked one of your levers leaving only People, Money and Scope.

The “resource pool” (People to you and me) is usually fixed so that lever is usually locked – or at least needing four or five people leaning on it to get it moving.

Now we’re getting down to it – Money and Scope, plenty of room for adjustment there.  Think again.  All companies use budgets at every level so you can safely assume that once your estimates are in and the Project Budget is signed off that lever is super glued, end of.

Scope.  That’s it… the only lever you have left.  But there’s great news, that lever moves really easily.  It has a hundred different settings you can prioritise and chop around, postpone, amend and simplify.  You can grab that lever and waggle it around to your heart’s content.

But will you?  Dare you?  Whether internal or external you have a “customer” and you have made an undertaking, a commitment, a promise to deliver this thing, whatever it may be.  Now you want to change it and deliver something else… but it is the only way if you want to hit that deadline.

But wait… there’s another lever, look down there on the floor… that little stubby, dangerous looking red one with the sign saying “QUALITY CONTROL, DO NOT TOUCH”.  Why don’t we just give the customer what we’ve got on the due date and call it a proof of concept, a rapid prototype or a parallel run… Yes! Yes that’s it, that’s what we’ll do… we can get the bugs out after go live.

Of course, you could just move the date…

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