I feel the need, the need for speed

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Is a quote from the film Top Gun where Tom Cruise plays United States Naval Aviator Lieutenant Pete "Maverick" Mitchell.

We appear to be obsessed with time. I want it all and I want it now sang Freddie Mercury (lead singer of the band Queen).

At the start of the project everyone is focused on go live. How many days to go live? Can we bring it forward? What is the critical path? Who do we need to motivate, to cajole, to encourage, to bring it over the line quicker? Let us identify the best individuals and bring them into the team; discard those who cannot perform.  If decisions need to be taken, then we will take them.

We are told that the project time-scales need shortening. The reasons:

  • competitive pressures,
  • legal needs (to meet mandatory requirements dictated by the law),
  • deliver organisational growth targets,
  • improve competitive capabilities,
  • provide better management information,
  • meet the financial year end
  • commitments made to the great and the good

and so the list goes on.

Yet this focus on time is very much a Western Europe / North America concept.

In the book Riding the Waves of Culture  the authors reference Time Horizons and how different cultures view past, present and future.

So let us consider adopting the approach of some cultures, where the past, present and future are all considered against a backdrop of a much longer time-frame: by doing so we get a very different perspective. We do not focus purely on go live, on getting the system over the line in as short a period as possible.

More time spent on considering a design, on garnering input from a wider range of stakeholders could well uncover important points that would have otherwise been missed. Instead of a two week period of User Acceptance Testing, if this is extended to three weeks there is 50% more time to run a larger set of tests and get more involvement.

It is very likely that the outputs from the project (i.e. the system) will be in use three to five years from now. For the end users who will live day to day with the solution, they deserve the opportunity to provide considered input to the decisions taken on system operation.

It was Mahatma Ghandi who said that There is more to life than simply increasing its speed.

We need to acknowledge that there is pressure on starting the project, getting the plans in place and getting the system live so the benefits can be delivered; yet let us also remember that quality design decisions cannot be hurried.  Putting people under pressure to complete testing could result in a lack of focus, so there needs to be a sensible period for testing. Users who are not trained properly in advance of go live make mistakes when using the system. Mistakes lead to non-conformance and reduced productivity.

So we must challenge the project time-line asking two questions, the usual one of Can we bring the go live forward?, and just as important Should we take longer as part of a quality approach to delivery?


Riding the Waves of Culture, Understanding Cultural Diversity in Business, Fons Trompenaars and Charles Hampden-Turner, 2nd Edition, ISBN13: 978-85788-179-9
I want it all by Queen from their album The Miracle
Top Gun 1986

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Posted by John Chapman on 11th Mar 2014

About the Author

John Chapman is Programme Director for Touchstone FMS http://www.TouchstoneFMS.co.uk/ His twitter is http://twitter.com/chapmanjs. An experienced Programme Director, Programme Manager, Project Director and Project Manager; having led Programmes of business change, implemented Financial Accounting Systems, Spend Control systems, and Document Management solutions International Project implementation experience, with a good understanding of the challenges of working with different cultures, and the logistics of international project delivery. Publications include: Author of a. Kafka, Pulp Fiction, Beer and Projects, b. ‘Project and Programme Accounting, a practical guide for Professional Service Organisations and IT’ published by Project Manager Today Publications. c. Member of the authoring group of the Gower Handbook of Programme Management 1st Edition. d. An acknowledged contributor to Managing Successful Programmes, 1st Edition and the APM Introduction to Programme Management 1st edition. The author of a range of educational video podcasts which are published at youtube.com/user/TheProgrammeDirector. He is Communications Lead for APM Programme Management Specific Interest Group  (www.apm.org.uk/progm)

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