Making projects


All experienced IT project managers know that testing, gradual migrations and investment in change management are all mandatory if the project is going to "succeed."

They also know when they don't do it, the effort spent fixing things is no less than it would have been before (and just as often it requires more effort), and the failures cause the implementers to lose credibility with the users in a way that debilitates productivity in the present and erodes credibility for the future.

Steve Yastrow at Tom Peters' site recently wrote about a great example of this in retail.

The Walgreens drug chain used to print one of those corporate mission statements on their register receipts: "Hi, I'm (cashier name). I'm here to serve you with the 'Seven Service Basics.'"

Yastrow apparently always asked the cashiers what they were and none of them ever knew any.

So, being a good marketer, he did the gadfly thing and pointed it out.

After enough of Yastrow's agitating, Walgreens simply removed the Basics from the receipt.

As Yastrow said, "I guess they finally decided it was easier to drop the program than to tell their employees about it."

Typical redefining the specs to accommodate incompetence.

It's also a great example of the MBWT that goes on around most mission statements.

A team crafts it, sends it out through the comm. channels, and then pretends that Lysenko-style, everyone will suddenly embody the executives' intentions.

Every time someone running a project tries to ameliorate a failed original estimate by pulling budgeted resources out of testing to pay for a development schedule more realistic than the one he pitched, he's engaged in MBWT.

Nelson's Observation is "The first Wishful Thinking failure makes subsequent Wishful Thinking failures more likely."

As accomplished project manager Stephen Nelson says, if you allow several MBWT-based decisions to cascade (that is, you try to erase the toxic effects of one MBWT decision by making another with the same technique), the toxicity compounds like credit card debt, and eventually the management effort to remediate the waste (overhead) is greater than any effort left available to do something positive (work).

Next Page: Ignorance is the mother of admiration.

This article was originally published on 03-30-2005
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