Yep, those words were really said. Out loud. On purpose. By a manager. To his team. Under stress.
A participant in this week’s project management workshop shared the story. I don’t know the manager but my guess is he’s probably a reasonable, rational, and decent person. Yet under stress, when we’re in the heat of battle, it can be easy for project sponsors, project managers, and team members to make short-term decisions that they’ll regret later on.
At your company, how often does project success effectively get measured as hitting a date? I had a coaching customer who used to tell his team, “The project delivery date is like a wedding date. You don’t miss your wedding date–don’t miss this delivery date!”
If success is defined as “Hit the date!” then there’s a reasonably good chance your team will deliver on time…. but at what cost?
Good project management defines what success looks like. PMI refers to such measures as project objectives. Good project objectives help teams maintain focus, knowing ahead of time how their project will be judged. Well thought out objectives also acknowledge that success can often not be determined on Day 1 (the day the project is delivered).
For example, tracking the number of product returns or defects or support calls or the change in revenue six months later can all be more robust ways to judge success than merely looking at delivery dates and performance to budget.
How often do you hear a manager say out loud that they’re willing to sacrifice quality? My experience: not often. Yet it’s easy for our very decisions to effectively do the same thing without saying it. When a project slips, do you reduce the amount of time allocated for testing? Or change the definition of what a show-stopper is? Or just pretend that “we can make this up” (five of the most dangerous words in project management)?
You’re likely sacrificing quality.
Early in your project, seek to define objectives. Get clarity from your project sponsor, boss, and key stakeholders by asking “What does success look like?” Get those success factors in writing. When the project starts slipping and changes are encountered, don’t sacrifice quality. Negotiate other constraints such as time, cost, and scope, looking for trade-offs that are acceptable.
Good project management can help reasonable, rational, and decent leaders avoid making really dumb short-term decisions.
By the way, I have a set of free project management training videos that provide insights on this issue as well as many others faced by project managers and sponsors. Click here to access them and get free insights on how to deliver your projects.