While I address the various Project Risk factors one by one, my Blog will be titled “Tiger By The Tail”. I pick such a caption for the obvious similarity to what we feel once we have a Project under way, with dwindling options to make it successful. Should we let go? (Hopefully it wont turn on us) Or should we let the animal yank us this way and that?
How many humans never drink water? Answer: Zero!
How many humans have visited Pluto? Answer: Zero!
How many Corporations/Management says “Hey Guys, You know what? Take all the time you want on this project. Totally your choice!”? Answer: Zero! (Note: If you feel this answer is not correct and you know some Corporation which does say this, PLEASE let me know so that I can also get into the long (I am sure it will be long) line of applicants!)
The truth is, there is severe competition from all corners. It is not enough to bring out a “perfect” Product. You have to bring it out in record time! When you consider the options from the Management side, you can understand why such demands are put forward. At the same time, the Company and the Project Team has to give itself a decent chance to succeed. “No Risk, No Gain” quote makes a lot of sense. I do not think it means “Total Risk, Zero Gain”.
I personally do not think that it is by “accident” that the typical Working Hours per week is 40 Hours per Week. It has been shown that an average Human can hold his/her concentration and high work performance for only that period in a Week. Of course, all of us have Phases where we do put in much more than 40 Hours per Week. For example, in the recent past, our team had to go through a stretch of several months of continuous Late Night Work, Early Morning Work, Weekend Work etc. By the end of this Phase, we were all burned out and took a few months to “recuperate”. In my experience, Engineering Work has cycles, which evens things out in the long run. Or it “should” even things out. If not, it becomes impossible to sustain.
Successful Project Schedule (or Project Schedule with Excellent Chance Of Success) = Accurate Self Assessment + Realistic & Confident Outlook + Margin For Errors/Mistakes.
Accurate Self Assessment: The Team Leaders and Team Members should know themselves very well. Regular Performance Evaluations and Skills Evaluations help achieve this aspect. CompanyA has all the various Skills required to successfully complete ProjectA, except for Skills X, Y and Z? Well, CompanyA better fill in the blanks with respect to X, Y and Z before the Project commitment is done.
Outlook: How quickly can we complete the project with a high degree of Schedule predictability? That is the Million$ question. Should you go for broke? The chance of failure in this scenario is very high. Or should we play it so safe that we time ourselves out of the market? That too, even before the project starts! The reason I mention “Confident” is to avoid the pitfall of Team Members overcompensating due to lack of confidence in their Skills. For example, EngineerA knows that he can complete TaskA in one Week, with a very high chance of success (say, 95%). But the fear of the 5% chance of failure could make him/her quote 2 Weeks (for a 1 Week task!).
Margin For Errors: A simple example. Scheduling a piece of work (e.g. TaskA) by calculating (Total_Hours_Required_For_TaskA / (8 * 7)) = Weeks_Required_For_TaskA, where “8” is the Work Hours per Day and “7” is the Days per Week. Such a calculation leaves no margin for error. As you can note, Weekends are included in the calculation as well. In case you wonder, “Which Company does that?”, trust me, there are many Companies which does that. There are scenariois where such a course of action is a must. For example, an Enterpreneur who has to get his Product into the market ASAP or face a total shutdown. In such a case, the Enterpreneur better make sure that such a course of action is sustainable for the time period it takes to launch the Product.
A pure Top-Down Approach, where the Management rams the Schedule down the Team’s throats, or a pure Bottom-Up Approach, where the Management goes only by the estimates of the individual Team Members, will not work. It has to be a process of open discussions and negotiations.
(No Project Schedule will work without total Commitment from the involved parties. I will touch upon this in another Blog. You can have the best-designed Project Schedule. If the entire Team is not committed, you might as well scrap the Project right away and save some costs).