In the runup to the planned debut of the latest MacBook Pro, Apple’s home computer division had a bit of a meltdown. Enhanced battery life was supposed to be one of the big selling points for the new version of the company’s main laptop, with customshaped cells that could store more power. After the design failed a key test, Apple decided to switch back to the old-model battery rather than miss the holiday shopping season, says a person familiar with the matter. The change required engineers from other Mac teams to put their own projects on hold to get the Pro ready. And the finished laptop’s battery life is pretty much what you’re used to—enough for most of a workday, always running down a little faster than expected, and still the biggest gripe among users. Mac pro users want updates. Bloomberg Businessweek, December 26, 2016,
So, what about those other projects? The ones who had engineers pulled off of them? How well did they do against their committed deadlines, quality and cost?
For many organizations I’ve work in the emergency redirection of critical resources to another project was common. It was so common that we effectively planned for it. Many people would argue that our project wouldn’t have those same problems. Or they would argue that we shouldn’t plan for senior management redirecting resources because we couldn’t be blamed for missing any project criteria under those conditions. Nevertheless, we found a natural way to account for these seemingly unpredictable occurrences.
Typically we would calculate to complete a project in X months. Yet in spite of these calculations, when looking at the history of similar projects we found we averaged X+3 months.So I would then propose a plan that took X+3 months. Everyone would freak. We would then start the project based on X months and then in a few months face our first crisis which inevitably was another project nearing completion and behind schedule and needing our resources to try and make it on time (but no longer on cost and no, it never saved a project). In our emergency replanning meeting the classic and politically acceptable fix at one company was to slip out our project exactly two weeks. Instead, I proposed my original plan which added three months. Amazingly the team accepted it and even more astonishingly senior management did too. The results? We hit the product acceptance date to … the … day.
See it’s The Schedule, Stupid!
I believe the primary reason for this breakthrough was that the team and senior management had been seeing my analysis and proposed plans regularly. While they were never happy to hear it at those times, when it came down to making a hard decision it was now easier because they had heard the unconventional idea often enough that they were finally comfortable to give it a try. It had become acceptable through persistence.
What unconventional idea do you have and how are you helping your organization become comfortable with it?