1.1 The Basics

1.1 The Basics

The Basic Concept

When we want to get anything done, whether large or small (in other words, a project), the things we use are:

  • People
  • Money
  • Equipment / materials
  • Time i.e. days.

We can hire or contract in or assign more people.  We can get more budget or more investment.  We can buy more equipment or materials.

But days are different. 

Once a day is gone it’s not coming back.  We can’t get more of it.  It’s gone.

Today, as I write this, it’s March 19, 2018.

There isn’t going to be another one.

If I don’t spend this one wisely I’m not going to get another shot at it.

This then, is the key to shortening projects.  It’s to spend each precious, irreplaceable day as wisely as possible.

There are industries where they do this.  Movie making is one.  The recent movie, The Shape of Water took ninety three days to shoot.  When’s the last time you or a colleague said, ‘My project lasted ninety three days.’  Film makers are very careful with their days; they spend them wisely.  I think it’s fair to say that most of us are very careless with our days.


The Three Principles

This idea of spending every day wisely translates into three principles which enable project shortening to happen.  These are:

Principle #1: Planning is good

If you’re in any doubt about this, read https://fastprojects.org/2017/08/23/we-dont-have-time-to-plan-it-just-go-do-it/ and if you’re still not convinced then there’s no point in reading any further.

Principle #2: Detail is good

My book How To Run Successful Projects: The Silver Bullet described how to do estimation as accurately as possible.  It showed how the two keys to accurate estimation were (a) to put lots of detail into the plan and (b) to use historical information from previous completed projects.  The level of detail prescribed was that each element / task / ‘little job’ in the project plan should be broken down to be within the range 1-5 days duration or 1-5 person-days effort.  (While there are exceptions to this, it’s true in most cases).

Principle #3: If detail is good, then more detail is really good

If you want to shorten your project, you must spend every day wisely. Another way of saying this is that you need to break things down to the day / person-day level of detail. Master this idea and you’re in business.


So Why Don’t People Do These Things?

By ‘people’ here, I mainly mean project managers.  To some extent, this is something that continues to baffle me.  Shortening projects (a) costs nothing and (b) has huge benefits.  So why isn’t everybody doing it?  I have thought a lot about this and, in the end, have come up with the following reasons:

  1. Project Managers don’t think it’s possible.  They think they’re lucky if they can bring the project in on time and within budget.  However, it is possible.  I’ve seen it done again and again, using the ideas in this course.
  2. Project stakeholders don’t think it’s possible.  They  think they’re lucky if their project comes in on time and within budget.
  3. Nobody works out the value. Nobody knows or works out what getting the project done early would mean financially.  If they did, there’s a good chance that the decision to shorten would be a no-brainer.
  4. Project Managers don’t plan properly.  If Project Managers don’t plan and estimate projects properly they can’t possibly get them done quicker.  How To Run Successful Projects: The Silver Bullet describes how to plan and estimate projects properly.  You can also look here https://fastprojects.org/whats-in-a-plan-well-actually-these-six-things/.
  5. It’s not in the PMBOK.  Getting projects done quickly is not in the ‘official’ project management literature, the Project Management Institute’s PMBOK [Project Management Body Of Knowledge].  Yes, it isn’t – but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done.
  6. There’s emotional investment.  It’s “what’s wrong with the way we do things at the moment?” syndrome.  Sure, but people improve processes all the time.  Shortening projects is exactly that – it’s process improvement.
  7. We’ll miss something.  Everyone is afraid that if they try to accelerate the project, they’ll miss something important.  Project shortening doesn’t skip out any steps in the project process; it merely tries to spend every day wisely.
  8. Simple is constantly underestimated.  Especially in high-tech organisations, very smart people can often regard very simple ideas as being of no value or can’t believe that simple ideas would work where complex ones have failed.  Simple is constantly underestimated – and the more complex the world becomes, the more this seems to be true.