Project management “Dirty Secrets”

I found this article very interesting and it did somewhat relate to the projects that I was handling when I was running an animation firm. This article talks about the dirty secrets in which the project managers are more than willing to go over the budget than missing the project deadline as their bonuses and commissions depend on the revenue and earnings for that quarter. Additionally, the article also includes the ideas that can be used to avoid the schedule crisis.

When I was running a small animation firm, mostly all the projects came with a strict deadline. Most of the customers wanted their projects to be done quickly and always stressed the deadline. Since our projects involved going back and forth with customers to get the approval on every milestone (such as story boarding, character designing, background designing and compilation) of the project, it delayed our project. Every time when we were closer to the deadline we had to rush the project and finish it on time. We followed the same tactics as mentioned in the article to expedite the project. Some of them were:

  • Don’t worry about the quality; try to finish as quickly as you can.
  • Have the employees work in double shift to finish the project.
  • Skip some approvals required from customer.
  • Hold other projects and have every one work on the current project.
  • Pay overtime.

All of these tactics helped us the finish the project on time but it did reduced the quality of work and we had to rework on some parts eventually. Also, as we had all the employees working on the same project we were late on the other projects. Now, I wish I had followed some of the guidelines mentioned in this article and it could have helped me in avoiding the schedule crisis. Some of the ideas I really liked from the article were:

  • “Do the reality-therapy thing”: I really liked the idea of giving demos to the executive sponsor at the end of each sprint and inform the sponsor (customer, in my case) about the expectation of the schedule of the project. This way the customer has an option to choose between the quality and time as the project proceeds towards the completion.
  • “Do the prioritization thing”: I completely agree that the by prioritizing the task at the beginning of the project can help in reducing the deliverables along the way and also help in reducing the load.
  • “Un-do the kill-the-messenger thing”: I think it is important that at every milestone review, the team members should be allowed to disclose the negative information about the project. This can help in estimating the realistic time for the projects and risks.

Are there any other ideas or guidelines that you want to share with me and are not mentioned in the article? Or are any of ideas that are mentioned the article have been useful to you in avoiding schedule crisis in past?

4 thoughts on “Project management “Dirty Secrets”

  1. Time is one of the most difficult aspects of any project. It is the one aspect that a company cannot control. Fortunately, for organizations, they can control how they utilize their time. As you mentioned in your post, deadlines are critical for project managers as incentives are usually tied to meeting them. After reading your article, the concept that resonated with me was the one discussing a backup plan for a no – go decision. Organizations spend millions of dollar on projects and often go live when the item is clearly not ready. Some companies believe they do not need to have the best product they only need to enter into the market first to capture the market. However, consumers are gathering more information before they make big purchases. With this in mind, companies must design a no – go plan. Scaling back and moving the live date will give organizations time to develop a quality product. But companies should keep in mind if they develop a reputation for missing established deadlines other businesses and consumers will quickly grow tired of this practice.

  2. Kunal, I found your shortcuts in expediting the project process to be unique. Although your shortcuts worked for your project, they would not work for a project in the nuclear industry. In the nuclear industry, quality is key. If one of my company’s products were to be under industry standards, the results could potentially be fatal. In fact, there have been instances where a poor quality product caused a machine malfunction. These are machines that weigh thousands of pounds and are made of heavy metals. When they malfunction, parts may fly from the machine at a fast pace which is obviously dangerous. This is why we have a Quality Assurance Department that double (even triple) -checks that each of our products meets the nuclear industry standards. Thank you for sharing your shortcuts. It was interesting to read.

  3. One of the biggest projects I ever worked on was a company split. This project’s deadline was non-negotiable. Everybody in my company knew when the split was going to happen, and what needed to be done by that deadline. Each mini project related to the company split needed to be completed by that time, because “the wall” between the companies was going up on a specific day at a specified time. We even had a huge billboard with a clock counting down days, hours, minutes, seconds…
    Our company split project was a huge success. The deadline was met and we did not go over-budget. Our leadership team did a great job motivating people who worked longer hours, but the reason why we didn’t go over the budget was the fact that my company had “perks” (that would motivate our employees) built into the budget. We not only had free food, snacks and massage chairs all over the office, but we also had random prizes drawn at even hours, and most importantly, employees felt like they were headed by managers who cared about their teams, and in turn, all of the employees worked hard to deliver the expectations.

  4. Shortcuts are always interesting. I recall reading an book by Ben Rich, former executive of Lockheed Martin’s skunkworks (yes that same group we discussed in class), a large portion of what he was able to accomplish within his time in the Skunk Works, could by and large, be attributed to what he called the 80/20 (a very well recognized problem solving concern). If you can get the project to 80% of expected results, the last 20% to perfection would be so much higher in cost to achieve that it was not worth pursuing. And this is the guy who built the F-117 Nighthawk stealth bomber. Nuclear industry is certainly the most regulated of anything out there, I would be very curious to see how the standardization in nuclear energy field stood to test. Even more of note, the very same Skunk Works group is now building something called a fusion reactor. Which will so far outpace the current capacity of nuclear fission reactions that it may be an order of magnitude in efficiency and even further gains can be realized in waste by products.

    I wonder if these guys still follow that 80/20…. hope not if they’re building one by me!

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