Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Unrealistic Expectations

You’re just getting started on the development of an exciting new product or program. The product/program definition isn’t really flushed out yet and the real magnitude of it is not understood, but everyone, including you, is energized about the prospects of what this new product/program can bring to the company. They have visions of money growing on trees! The management team says they really have to have this by a certain date in order to have the impact they would like. They ask you, as a project/program manager if this can be achieved. Optimist that you are, not knowing the product details, and making some assumptions, you indicate that you think it may be possible (see Take the Time to Think!). Congratulations! You have just set unrealistic expectations that you can be quite certain will not be met.

No one intends to set unrealistic expectations, but it happens all the time. Everyone wants new systems, products, or programs delivered yesterday, with outstanding quality, even if they don’t have a clue about the amount of work involved in delivering a quality product/program that is aligned with critical business objectives. People are pressured to estimate what it will take to develop something that is not fully (or even mostly) defined.  When that estimate is viewed as too long (which is almost always the case), they are asked to pull time out of the schedule (see The Schedule Estimate Extortion Game). Then, as the product/program definition starts to come together, additional features and functions are identified and are determined to be mandatory. It is often realized that the needed resources needed are not currently available. However, the end date (that was very broadly estimated in the first place, and then shortened by pressure applied early and continuously) is not allowed to be modified, unless it can be pulled in. Assumptions and caveats are forgotten. [What happens when you 'ass/u/me'?  You make an 'ass' of 'u' and 'me'!]. When anyone then  tries to adjust the date, they will then hear, “I didn’t set the date, you did!”, or "Don't confuse me with the facts!" (see Don't Confuse Me With the Facts!). Many other departments become dependent on that date, and when you don’t or can’t deliver, it is entirely your fault. Then it turns into 'floggings' (see Floggings Will Continue Until Morale Improves!).  

How can unrealistic expectations be avoided or at least reduced?  

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Common Courtesy (or the Lack Thereof)

You’ve just gotten involved in a new and important project, and you’re grateful to be involved, as it promises, if successful, to be a major driver of new business for the company, and can provide positive visibility for you. You go into the initial project meetings with a positive outlook and a ‘can do’ attitude. However, when the meeting gets started you notice there appears to be discontent between some of the representatives of the various organizations involved. Even more disconcerting, the discussions quickly veer off a path of respectful discourse to displays of snarkiness, animosity and even outright disrespect. This makes no sense to you, as it is clearly counterproductive and unnecessary. You expect common courtesy to be the norm, and can’t understand what you’re seeing or why. Unfortunately, bad behavior and a lack of common courtesy is becoming all too common in the workplace and out of it.

Where has common courtesy gone? It used to be that people, within and outside of the workplace, treated each other with courtesy regardless of the circumstances, even during very trying times. But manners, courtesy and civility seem to have taken a turn for the worse. Why, and what can be done about it?

There are many potential causes for the decline in common courtesy and civility.