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Sometimes When They Say They Want The Project Fast It Is Just Talk“IT will never be fast enough, because business units will always want results sooner.”  Best Buy Exec Points Toward Next-Gen IT, GlobalCIO by Chris Murphy,

“Some customers complain that they’re already dealing with too many updates to their applications, even in the cloud.”  Pros And Cons of Microsoft’s ERP-In-The-Cloud Plan, by Doug Henschen.

Information Week, April 9, 2012.

OK, which one is it?  You want a lot of changes fast, but when we give them to you, you tell us that we are changing too much too often!

Has this ever happen to you?

Sadly, not enough people get to manage this kind of “successful” situation.  But when we finally got organizations performing well, one of the somewhat amazing results was the sudden customer pushback of “too much, too fast.”

The challenges of success then is … to be successful with it.  In the IT field it is often surprisingly easy to be suddenly successful.

I’ve related other experiences, such as with test and quality organizations, where these organizations reacted poorly to a significant increase in quality.  While we all strive for “faster, faster, more, more, quality, quality” it is often a shock to many when we achieve it.

See related:   Want To Stress Your Test Team? Give Them Quality!

So my lesson learned was, yeah, I want to be fast, feature rich with rock solid quality, but I have to deliver it to the customer in a way that they can handle.  Just because they say “faster!, faster!” don’t assume that they can actually handle it or that they will automatically sing our praises when we do it.   It is sometimes just too easy and too safe to demand something that appears unattainable.

 It is just too easy to demand something that appears unattainable

We had called a meeting for our Asian markets test teams.  We had been reminding them and everyone for weeks that the milestone for the start of regional testing was fast coming.  We were now ready, but the Asian market manager seemed confused.  She asked me why were we asking for testing now.  It was months before the product was to be shipped, she said.

I was in-turn a bit confused by her question, but I simply reminded her that this was the schedule and that this was how much time they had needed in the past (and had agreed to) to complete their product testing in the region.

She went quiet for a few moments.  Finally, she said that she knew that was the schedule, but no other product had ever actually ask them to start on the scheduled start date.  She asked if the prototypes were ready in volume and if the hardware and software had passed their readiness reviews.  I confirmed all of those items and the managers in charge of those activities were in the meeting in case she needed additional details to get started.

After a few more moments of awkward discussion, she finally admitted that they had simply not prepared and she had expected to have a few more months before they really had to get going.  Her team was not ready and it would be weeks before they could be, if they got started preparing now.  Even then they would be short of resources but they could at least get started.

See related: One Great Way Of Using Your Staff Hours

We kicked off the European region testing a few weeks later and the regional manager had heard we had started Asia “almost” on time.  I could tell he was a bit harried but he had quickly lined up contractors to do the testing (“Bruce, are you sure this is really going to happen?”).  His region started testing on time.  We delivered the product on time to our first and largest customer in Europe.  The Asian region delivered a couple of weeks late to their first customer (which was still a huge win as we typically delivered months late).

I’ve also experienced a customer who went from regularly berating us because we never delivered system updates on time nor in good working condition to telling us they didn’t want to take a system update because we had too many changes.  Our many changes would be too disruptive to their business processes they claimed — as if it was our fault they had requested so many changes!

I had a budget director, who always blamed my department for why the overall budget was late, ask me diplomatically to continue to review my budget for another week past the deadline.  Since my department’s budget had always been the last one to get in and was always late, his reason for missing his budget updates each year was because of my department.  When we finally delivered on time, he was not ready.  In fact it took him a few years before he could take my annual budget submission on time.

Bring about change in a manner the organization can handle

We always want to get faster and be more efficient with time.  At least I always want to and we’ve been successful at doing just that.  But because someone is constantly and loudly saying “faster, faster” doesn’t always mean they can really accommodate such a fast and furious pace.  It is our job as project managers to bring about change and improvement in a manner the organization can actually and smartly handle.  So, don’t be too surprised when a customer gets “big eyes” when you tell them that you have what they asked for when they asked for it.

Have you ever delivered a project only to find the customer was not ready for it even after they regularly pushed for its fast delivery?

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6 thoughts on “Sometimes When They Say They Want The Project Fast It Is Just Talk

  1. Arthur Ganzert • Hi Bruce, I fully agree too. And manytimes the stakeholders have different agendas, including non technical ones, such as consolidating new teams through their results, establish higher quality standards (many times above the real project needs), or simply to maintain a team “in the map” (during crisis). Then the “ask more” mentioned by Svetlana may come not only from the customer, but also from the other stakeholders.

  2. Comments from around the web:

    Daniel Saville • Part of the analysis is to “discover” that the organization is not prepared for the project. But sometimes, even knowing that does not convince your bosses…

    Bruce Benson • Daniel,

    Agreed. We can only pull the information and make the case. Too often there are other forces in effect (politics, unstated promises, etc.) that influence the final decision.

    The trick I’ve found is to risk making a prediction (“They won’t be ready by then”) and then if I’m lucky (or managing my project and requirements well) and it comes to fruition then I’ve increased my own credibility in a way I can leverage in the future.

  3. Comments from around the web:

    Svetlana Nikonova • hi Bruce, fully agree. I’ve become to conclution that when a customer asks (and even request to do something fast), he just prononces his ideas, not the real wishes, but in this special manner… it looks like a customer follows the rule: “ask more – get less”

    Bruce Benson • Svetlana,

    Agreed. Sometimes it is just words for the effect. I’ve seen managers push simply because it makes them look good (“I’m working them hard!”) and not because it makes management sense to do it.

    So taking the literal word of a customer or manager is not always the best project management success strategy. Often we have to dig into what is really behind the words and give them what is possible.

  4. Comments from around the web:

    Deon Lawrence DeSouza • Excellent anecdote, Bruce. As a former Project Manager at Equifax, I will agree that clients (internal as well as external) are seldom ready to receive the very results they have asked for. I did have one pleasantly surprising overseas outsourcing project experience which finished 30 days ahead of schedule. When the VP received word that we were fully operational and performing ahead of forecasted estimates she called me into her office and said “Deon, Yours is the only project either on or ahead of schedule so, as far as I’m concerned, you’ve earned the remaining 30 days to do whatever you like.” I took my first real vacation in 11 years!

    Bruce Benson • Deon,

    Great experience and nice reward for delivering the project! I knew another boss who would send his folks off to “work at the beach” when things were going well.

    So what did you do with the time off?

  5. Comments from around the web:

    Peter Kretzman ‏ @PeterKretzman
    Interesting twist: RT @BruceWBenson: Sometimes When They Say They Want The Project Fast It Is Just Talk

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