Sunday, 05 September 2010 00:00

Why We Are Always Late

Rate this item
(0 votes)

schedule with Identified Padding

Why is it that tasks always seem to be late? No matter how much time we allot, there never seems to be enough to complete a task on time. There is one overreaching reason pervasive throughout the enterprise—poor time management. To accommodate the continual barrage of supposedly urgent tasks, we heavily pad estimates. Excessive padding triggers numerous negative work patterns. The extra time and over confidence in estimates allows people to accept other unrelated tasks, introduce low priority features, and strive for perfection. It is unfair, however, to saddle the individual with the entire problem; the work-place culture reinforces and rewards the behavior.

Striving for Perfection

Many project managers have a saying that perfection is a schedule's worst enemy. Nothing is, or ever will be, perfect. Typos exist, colors can be better, finishes smoother, and no level of testing will eliminate bugs. Yet, we try. The more time we have, the harder we work to prefect the deliverable. Trying to please the customer, we add minor features or functions that are not critical to the customer. Our estimates for these little features are always over optimistic and the tasks consume far more time than expected. The time consumed is amplified, as others document, train, built, test, and learn the additional noncritical functions.

The incentive to add features and functions is high. Customers shower us with praise when they see them, not realizing that their addition has cost them time and money. Their effusive thanks drown out the complaints from bosses on how long it took to complete the task. We strive for this praise since we get so little of in our daily work.

Padding Estimates

We are all victims of procrastination. Even if we do not strive for perfection, we still have trouble getting tasks done on time. When given two weeks to do a one-week task, we rarely start it as soon as we can as to complete in the first week. We start well into the two-week allotment, often leaving less than the week we know it will take.

Knowing there is more time than needed we accept other unrelated tasks. This has its own built-in reward system since agreeing to do the work avoids confrontation.

This behavior ignores the benefits of completing the task early—pulling in the project's completion date—and is a result of erroneously thinking that task completion dates are quotes. It is wrong to believe that completing tasks by the scheduled date proves proper time management.

Pressure Is Good

People like pressure. Most of us work much more efficiently if there is pressure on us to complete our work. We focus better, do only what is required, reduce the frills, and do not add non-critical features. Lack of pressure creates the lackadaisical condition that Eliyahu Goldratt calls the Student Syndrome. The name is best understood when thinking about students who are given an entire school term to write a final paper, yet they start it a few days before the paper is due.

Improper Incentives

The problem is rooted in corporate culture. Everyone praises the super star—the person that pulls off the nearly impossible task is the hero. People completing their work quietly or ahead of schedule with no fanfare go unrecognized for their proper planning. Managers fail to reward the calm methodical approach or early completion. Adding bell and whistles, working all night to meet the due date, or multitasking on five tasks at once, gets the recognition and praise.

This is apparent in the most subtle of daily activity. Our days are needlessly interrupt-driven. Senior managers make requests expecting middle management to prioritize the task with current work-in-progress. Unfortunately, middle managers fail to validate priorities and interrupt higher priority work to complete the task. To compensate for the anticipated requests, individual contributors significantly pad estimates. Having the extra time means that they do not need to question priorities and they can simply complete the senior manager's request, and receive the recognition for solving the problem. Our lives are hero driven. The consequences are that projects have significant padding, making them more costly and are often late since the interrupts chew up more than the scheduled pad.

The Solution

Want to buy it now?

Ask for more info above, or if you are convinced, just add it to your cart..

The solution is to change the corporate culture. A task only for the strong willed. People should be rewarded for completing tasks early, deferring new assignments until the current task is complete, and ensuring that deliverables are devoid of even the smallest of additional features. The resistance to this model is huge. Meddling managers are incapacitated, kudos-driven employees must get their rewards by staying on task, and confidence challenged staff must learn to question and be questioned.

The key is to question. Progressive organizations are willing to listen to their employees and challenge the status quo. They must reward for staying on task, completing tasks early, the ability to say "no," and providing estimates that are aggressive but achievable. Without this, the cycle will continue and projects will not improve.

Read 7202 times

Related items

  • Filling Execution Gaps

    Executives define vision, strategy, and goals to advance the business. Projects enable companies to meet those goals. Between strategy and projects, there is a lot of work to be done—work that lays the foundation for the projects’ success. Through experience and research, six common gaps exist in organizations that inhibit project success—absence of common understanding, disengaged executive sponsors, misalignment with goals, poor change management, ineffective governance, and lackluster leadership.

  • Get Recognized as a Leader: Four Core Leadership Actions

    Leaders make decisions. This requires a core set of actions to gather the best information, hear out the concerns of others, and making a decision that everyone will follow—even if they do not necessarily agree with the decision. This session covers the four core leadership actions (listening, dialog and discussion, selling a vision, and elimination of blame) that are critical in your journey as a leader. We discuss and practice these actions in small role-playing groups.

  • Process Mapping

    Process is at the core of any business. It makes work predictable, repeatable, and transferable. Without it we cannot scale our businesses. However, process can be a bane to making progress. Processes that work for a $10 million company have difficulties supporting a $30 million company. Trying to scale them to a $300 million company will not only fail but not address the issues that larger companies have that were never dreamt of in a smaller organization. Processes need to be discarded, revamped, and built—all of that without creating an overburdening bureaucracy.

    Anytime you need to go someplace, you first have to know where you are. Processes are never static and your company's current state is probably far from where you think it is. Hence, the first step is mapping out you company's current state followed by defining the future state. This is more than a logical map of the process; it must also include physical maps. Whether your process is solely to provide a service (say, website development) or physical (say, manufacturing) there are logistical issues that complicate the process flow. Without fully understanding those nuances, future state processes will not reach the desired efficiencies.

    For more information about process mapping fill out the form to the left and we will get in touch with you.

  • Success vs Culture

    The other day a Latvian student contacted me for my views the connection between culture and success criteria—an important and intriguing topic. After working in Taiwan, Singapore, Korea, Japan, Israel, United States, and Canada, I wear many scars of both blatant and subtle cultural violations. I also know that within a culture one person's success is often another person's failure. So, after dispelling concerns about clicking on some random email link, I completed her survey (please feel free to take it yourself). In the process, I struck up a friendship with the student, Kristine Briežkalne, who is studying at Riga International School of Economics and Business Administration . She has some interesting views and presented me with a Venn diagram showing four frames to a project (business, client, project management, and growth perspectives) and how they intersected. As the diagram is part of her Master's thesis, I will let you ponder the how to label the overlapping areas (an eye-opening exercise).

  • Kill The White Knight

    There is a reason we do not teach classes on fixing failing projects. Many a cynic feels that we simply do not want to teach our trade, however, our reason is far nobler—we should be teaching prevention rather trying to create white knights to save the day. It is the same philosophy as building a fence at the cliff's edge rather than an emergency room at its base. Our language is replete with idioms telling us to look past the symptom and address problems at their root cause. 'An ounce of prevention versus a pound of cure' or 'a stitch in time saves nine.' Please, feel free to supply your own in the comments. Unfortunately, most of our businesses loathe this philosophy, waiting to address an issue until it is irrefutably broken.

Leave a comment

Filling Execution Gaps

Available Worldwide

Filling Exectution Gaps cover

Filling Execution Gaps is available worldwide. Below are some options.

 

PG DirectLogo
Limited Time Price $20.99
Amazon logo
Book or Kindle
Flag of the United States Canadian Flag Flag of the United Kingdom Irish Flag Deutsche Flagge
Drapeau Français Bandiera Italiana PRC flag
Japanese flag
Bandera de España
Flag of India
Bandera de México
Bandeira do Brasil
Flag of Australia
Vlag van Nederland
DeG Press Logo
Barnes and Noble Logo
Books a Million Logo
Booktopia Logo
Worldwide: Many other
book sellers worldwide.

Rescue The Problem Project

Internationally acclaimed

Image of RPP

For a signed and personalized copy in the US visit the our eCommerce website.

Amazon logo
Buy it in the United States Buy it in Canada Buy it in the United Kingdom
Buy it in Ireland Buy it in Germany Buy it in France
Buy it in Italy Buy it in the PRC
Buy it in Japan
Book sellers worldwide.

Upcoming Events

Other's References

More Info on Project Recovery

Tell me More!

Please send me more information
on fixing a failing project.

Sitemap