Home » Metrics » Doing The Impossible By Using Simple Math

This is not to say Musk will realize his most ambitious goals: landing on Mars, electrifying much of the world’s transportation fleet, and accelerating the transition from a fossil-fuel to a carbon-free economy. But each is closer than most thought possible in such a short time. The seed of each idea was planted by calculating what physics dictates is possible, not extrapolating from the status-quo. This defined the arena of possibility using little more than high-school math. Quartz, qz.com, May 10, 2017. Simple math is why Elon Musk’s companies keep doing what others don’t even consider possible

Simple math. We had promised the customer a new software feature in a “few months.” I was the new director of software development and the account manager came to me concerned that my team was not going to deliver on time. This was my first crisis and so I dug in to see how we were doing. My team didn’t even seem to have gotten started on the project and several months had gone by since the promise was made to the customer. The team was also somewhat dubious of the promise, kind of like we make these promises all the time but we don’t actually deliver on time. This was normal, it seemed, delivering later than promised along with the requisite account manager yelling that we were not going to meet his promise.

While doing my management thing of getting this project kicked off, I also queried all my teams with a simple request. Give me the times it took to deliver, from account manager promise to actual working and accepted delivery by the customer for the last 3-5 projects. The average time to deliver a project turned out to be nine months. The average time promised had no real data but instead was usually words like “in a few months.”

The next time an account manager dropped by my office and said “my customer needs …” before he could finish I said “no problem, we can get it to them by the 3rd quarter of next year.” The account manager freaked. We delivered on time, the first time in the memory of the organization, and after multiple on time deliveries our customers thanked us for “finally giving us realistic estimates.” They also conveyed to us that their business planning had also improved as they could now rely on us to give them the needed capability, when they had promised it to their customers. Using readily available data and just simple math gave us the insight we needed to promise and then deliver, on time with good quality.

What data are you using to ensure meeting your promises to your customer?

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