Wednesday, July 13, 2011

If You Want It Bad, You'll Get It ... Bad!

You and your team are working as hard as possible to deliver on your commitments by the agreed to deadline, and you want to be sure that what you deliver is of high quality. However, unforeseen problems have arisen that make it questionable that you will be able to deliver everything with the quality you want on time. The pressure is incredible. Your boss is saying things like, “I don’t care how you do it, but get me something by Friday!”, or, “I don’t care if it’s complete or fully ready; I need something now!”, or, “Don’t confuse me with the facts; just get me what I want, now!” [see Don't Confuse Me With the Facts!] Your boss has promised this to his boss, and your boss’s boss has promised this to his boss. No one wants to be embarrassed in front of their boss. However, you know that if what you deliver isn't everything that was promised, or isn’t really complete or fully ready, or isn’t of high quality, despite what your boss may say now, you will be crucified. You are stuck with the dilemma that if you want it bad, you’ll get it . . . bad!

Clearly, the world is moving faster and faster. Competitors are selling products and services which can quickly take away your company’s market share . If your product or service isn’t released to market within a certain timeframe, the company may face dire circumstances. Pressures to deliver more faster are very real, and demands to do so are made all of the time.  

What can be done to endure in a chaotic world? First and foremost, it comes to doing the basics right.  

Have the product and/or service requirements been fully specified, and are they really complete? [See What Do Your Customers Really Want?, Product Definition: Define What It Is and What It Isn’t, Write It Down and Signe It Off, and Product or Service Requirements.] Incomplete requirements or continually changing requirements will doom a product or service from meeting its goals. Agreement on what the product or service is, and what it is not, is critical.

Is the project plan complete, and does it take into account the many tasks and dependencies it should? [See Failing to Plan Means You Are Planning to Fail,  Planning -- Well Begun is Half Done, Plan Based On What You Know, and On What You Don’t!,  and When Bad Things Happen to Good Projects.] If you don’t know where you’re going or how to get there, it is highly unlikely that you will arrive at all, much less 'on time'. 'Sunny day scenarios' or wishful thinking will not make a 'hope' come true, and will far more likely ensure failure to deliver (see Sunny Day Scenarios). You will find that while you don’t think you have time to do things right, you will be forced to make time to do it over, to everyone’s detriment (see Doing Things Right versus Doing Things Over).

Are the right resources in place to do the job right? [See Do Jobs Right – Assign the Right People! and Move the Rocks and People Travel Faster.] If the right people are not assigned to the right jobs, chances for success are poor to non-existent. If obstacles to success cannot be removed or at least reduced, then delays are inevitable.

Are all of the people and groups involved in the project communicating effectively? [See Does Everyone Really Understand?, Speaking in Tongues, Can You Hear Me Now?, Are You Part of the Solution, or Part of the Problem?, and When It’s “Us” vs. “Them”, Nobody Wins!.] Everyone involved needs to agree on the common goals to be achieved and what 'success' really means. Different expectations from different parties will guarantee that what gets delivered will not be acceptable to all (see ).

Is a solid approach or methodology in place? [See Methodology: Too Much, Too Little, or “Just Right”?, Methodology Basics: Stages of Development, Methodology Basics: Management of Development, Quality by Design!, and Make Quality a Full Member of Your Team!]. You need a viable approach to develop products or services successfully, to plan, design, build, test, validate, etc. 'Winging it' is not a viable path to success.

Assuming you are doing everything right, it is still likely that something will go wrong. Design approaches may be untried, untested and found to have flaws. Critical people may be out for illness or family problems. Floods, storms, or power outages may close your facility. Any number of untoward events may occur that you simply cannot plan for. If sufficient contingency has been incorporated into your project plan, you may be able to compensate; however, even with contingency you may not be able to, and often, contingency gets forced out of your planning efforts in order to achieve 'must have' dates (see The Schedule Estimate Extortion Game).

You need to be honest about where things stand at all stages of the project and let people know the honest facts. Giving people the answer they want to hear when it’s not true, or when you know they won’t accept any other answer is not wise; it will only set up unrealistic expectations. (see Unreasonable Expectations), and the facts will eventually become known and you will be far worse off for keeping them hidden. This may not make you popular, but it will make you respected.

People must be lead and managed effectively (see Herding Cats: The Art of “Managing” EngineersHerding Cats 2: Problem Child & Elitist BastardHerding Cats 3: Boss Wannabe & Social ButterflyHerding Cats 4: "Wally" & Prima DonnaHerding Cats 5: Solid Citizen, Valued Expert & Rising Star, Herding Cats 6: Complainer/Whiner, Eternal Optimist, Chesire Cat, Loner, Credit Taker/Thief & A$$hole, and Mis-Managers – How Bad Managers Can Poison the WellMis-Managers 2: Janus & Old Yeller, Mis-Managers 3: Builder-Upper & Tearer-DownerMis-Managers 4: Micro-Managers - People, Design & Process, Mis-Managers 5: Power Tripper & Turf Builder Mis-Managers 6: Mentor, Tactician & Strategist, Mis-Managers 7: Hands-Off, Wheeler-Dealer, Credit Taker/Thief & A$$hole). Flogging people to deliver on unrealistic demands won’t work (see Floggings Will Continue Until Morale Improves!). Quite the contrary, when getting flogged, the floggee will deliver just enough, barely, to get the flogger off his/her back. Flogging won’t cause delivery of high quality product; it will result in delivery of mediocre product and a highly demotivated work force. Further, it will doom future development efforts to a similar destiny.

Everyone wants to deliver the best possible product or service on time and under budget, and proper planning and effective teamwork and management can help make this so. But when things go wrong, remember, if you want it bad, you’ll get it ...  bad!

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