Duh. Just about every project that delivers late with low quality falls into this situation. Sure, some projects have catastrophic events: hurricanes, tsunamis, terrorism, wars, government oversight 😉 etc. These will have a hard time being successful, but they are in my experience a rarity.
Most of the projects I’ve seen that have been under-successful fell into this category of where our demand for quick results didn’t match our ability to deliver those results. These same organizations when they adjusted their promises to align with their capabilities quickly became successful — at least at delivering projects on time with good quality.
To see how: Get The Schedule Right!
“We might like to consider how to shape our demands to better match our capability to supply them, and at the same time consider how we might improve our capability over time to supply more of the demands we are seeing.” Kanban Development, Software Development Times, May 2012.
Too many organizations I’ve seen, do it backwards. They keep or increase the demand and then try to “fix” their capabilities to achieve those demands. Yes, this seems very reasonable. The demand exists, so focus on meeting it!
Agreed. If we really do it that way. What all too often happens, based upon this notion of matching capability to demand, is we “assert” an increase in capability and then promise to meet the demand.
What happens? Late and low quality project deliveries. So how has that helped? Why is it that when we see a shortfall in our capability (e.g., it always takes us 20% longer than we promised) that instead of recognizing our current capability and making promises based upon it, we deny it (or assert that we’ll improve it) and then once again promise and miss by 20%?
We are in denial. We want to be 20% faster, but we aren’t. That’s unacceptable we say. I want to see a Powerpoint slide with ten improvements that will make us 20% faster on the next project. Our competitors are that fast, so why can’t we be that fast? Do it.
Has this approach ever worked for you?
What our competitor probably did, that eventually put them ahead of us — for good, was to first recognize how long things were taking and based promises on that length of time. They then started to improve their process and made their new promises based upon their demonstrated capability. Initially, they were slower than us and didn’t produce as good of quality a product as we did. We were number 2 and gaining on number 1. They were a distant number 3.
They first exceeded us by making more money than we did on the products they sold. They were still number 3 in market share while we seemed stuck at number 2. Yet, they made more money than we did.
They then started to deliver new products sooner than we did. Their total cycle time was now shorter than ours. We were still promising products that we then delivered months late.
The CEO asked me how number three could be delivering faster than we could. Why couldn’t we deliver that fast? Why did we keep delivering late and slower than number three? Note, he was no longer talking about catching up to number one. Instead he was obsessed with number three catching up to us.
In a company wide meeting he outlined our strategy for improving. Many things were covered. What about our inability to deliver on time? It was covered by a single bullet on a PowerPoint slide. It said we would deliver 20% faster. That was it. Do you think we achieved that bullet? Nope.
For more see How To Stay A Step Ahead By Not Trying Real Hard
Our competitor took years to slowly, incrementally, improve. They got better. Their quality got better. Their speed got better. Their profitability got better. They overtook us in profitability and then market share. They eventually became number one in the industry.
If we continue to deny our capability and just assert our ability to deliver when promised, the chances of truly improving are minimal. When we admit how long it takes us, then plan based upon that capability, and then work at improving, then that is a project management tool that works and can make a difference. Just ask our competitor. Us? We are no longer in business.
Compare with Honesty Is Just More Efficient
Are you planning based upon your demonstrated capability or based upon a mythical wished for future?