More on Deadline Management
We have been very busy over the last few months, but I do pledge to start posting regularly to the blog. I have a few items already fleshed out, so please stay tuned.
We continue to think about and promote a move away from deadline and milestone management, towards the relay race. The following quote from an Earned Value list on LinkedIn triggered a few more thoughts:
The words I’ve learned to use to “speak about EV,” is to ask “what is your budget for producing this widget?” Both money and time? Then the “value” part of EV is [to] “earn” that budget in the planned time. That gets them thinking about the planned budget (BCWS) and absorbing that budget over the planned period of performance. When the pre-defined measure of “done” is achieved on the planned day for the planned budget, then everyone is in the “happy place.” BCWP=BCWS x 100% complete.
Does this bother you? It should. Lines for time and money have been drawn in the sand, and as long as we’re not late everything is ok. Would you rather finish earlier? Too bad. “Not late” is the goal.
Dates are necessary when multiple things have to come together at the same time. For example, if a number of people need to have a meeting to coordinate activities, they pick a date and time. It happens all the time in the business world, but it’s necessary less often than you might think. We think of train schedules as fixed in time, but subway trains operate frequently enough that we don’t usually need to know the schedule. A client apparently needs to know when we are delivering a product to them, but if we asked we might well find that they’d prefer it as soon as possible, with a good picture of the likely range of times.
Dates can be desirable when you want to promote a sense of urgency. If I know I have to submit an article in a week, I become much more focused than if there is no date. So, for example, the simplest way to provide a sense of urgency for project tasks is to give people dates and deadlines. Unfortunately, deadlines also give people incentives to add safety time and to multitask. Look at it this way: even if you have a “successful” project that hits all its dates, chances are there was significant safety time included in those dates; and that meant people likely took on other simultaneous work; and that meant multitasking. The project could have been completed much more quickly and efficiently.
There are other ways to provide a sense of urgency. A critical chain schedule with buffer management is one.
Most project management tools available today support date cultures. Enterprise Project Management (EPM) systems provide unparalleled means of managing and reporting on dates. Unfortunately, in doing that they support rather than change the deadline paradigm. I believe this is why we frequently see companies spend years and millions of dollars implementing EPM systems, without getting significant benefits in return. It’s why multitasking is an epidemic.
Here is a simple way to evaluate a project management system:
- Does it help make safety time more visible and easier to manage?
- Does it help set and manage credible priorities within and across projects?
- Does it help change from a “train schedule” (deadline) paradigm to a “relay race” (as fast as possible) paradigm?
If the answer to any of these questions is “no,” your new system probably isn’t fully helping you to get the benefits you want. If the answer to all is “no,” your company too could spend years and millions of dollars getting nowhere.
- On August 27, 2011