Not fully understanding the deadlines and the reasons behind them…
This often happens in large companies, but also happens in smaller organisations. Learned organisational behaviour creates artificial deadlines and as explained earlier, where the time side of the triangle is squeezed, the other sides grow to compensate and costs go up and quality suffers.
Deadlines are often created for commercial reasons – if you are responsible for the planning and delivery of an exhibition stand, then it must be ready for the exhibition, or if you are the BBC and you are filming Wimbledon, then you need to make sure you are there and ready to go at the appropriate time. If you planned to deliver in August, you would have missed the entire tournament.
However, often deadlines are created for softer reasons.
For example, I recently ran a project measuring the ongoing efficacy of a billing process, from a customer event (in this case a phone call or text message) through to a bill being sent to a customer. We were given a deadline that x must be done by Christmas and this wasn’t moveable. So we put in a lot of effort, and delivered x by Christmas. They Project Sponsor was surprised by this and hadn’t really expected something before Christmas, but in that organisation, if you asked for Christmas, you should expect something (anything) around Easter. And after shortly after Easter, the following years capital spending was agreed upon and to guarantee next year’s budget for a long term project…. You get where this is heading.
Anyway, the ultimate objective was that the company required a large system that would take several years to fully implement, but they felt that to receive the required level of funding they needed to demonstrate some results to the board quickly, including a good return on investment.
The above would have been easily achieved, but the organisation had been going astray for a long time and people spent more time positioning looking at the bigger picture.
With another client, we had been given a regulatory requirement where we have to fulfil 20% of our obligations by a date 9 months into the future. This was a complex project and we needed to procure equipment. As you can imagine, this date was clear in the minds of ourselves, the regulators, the press and we thought all or our potential suppliers (there were 6 prime contractors bidding). One supplier had completely misunderstood the date requirements and was immediately disqualified from the vendor list.
Two months later, then vendor – a very prestigious electronics manufacturer went bankrupt. And we could understand why.