Episode 3 Week 1 – Friday

Episode 3 Week 1 – Friday


Alice has been asked to deliver the X Project in six months, which she’s realised is completely impossible.



Alice wanted to have the meeting the following day, Tuesday but people were on trips, their diaries were full, they grumbled and so, between one thing and another, it was going to be Friday afternoon before she could get them all together. At least they were still in week 1.

Alice used the intervening time to get the project off on the right foot.

Grabbing time whenever she could with Harry, Sammy, Magnus and Patricia, she established that the project would be regarded as being complete when Ted the Tester signed off the final System Test. This would be the last job in the project. Marketing and sales of the new product were not included in Alice’s project.

She also made a list of all the project stakeholders and wrote down what she thought their win-conditions were i.e. what they would regard as the best possible outcome to the project. Over the course of the week, she confirmed these with the various stakeholders.

With that in place, Alice’s next job was to show them that the project was impossible. The Friday meeting came round. Alice kicked it off.

‘Thank you for the time you’ve given me this week. The reason I called the meeting today is that I want us to get an estimate of the size of this project.’

‘We already have an estimate,’ said B-Bob. It’s six months.’

‘That’s not the size – that’s how long you say it’s going to take.

(Alice was careful to insert the words ‘you say’.)

‘What I want to know,’ Alice continued, ‘is how big is it; how much work is in it; how much stuff has to be done.’

This seemed to placate B-Bob for the moment.

‘As far as I can tell, in order to deliver the X Project, there are six main chunks of work that have to be done. These are:

  1. Hardware changes
  2. Software rewrite
  3. Competitors’ features
  4. Customer requests
  5. 3 killer features

As you know, I met with each of you in the past few days, to try and establish how these could be further broken down and this is what you came up with:

  1. Hardware changes (1 work package or chunk)
  2. Software rewrite (1 work package or chunk)
  3. Competitor’s features (18 features)
  4. Customer requests (7 requests)
  5. 3 killer features (3 features).

Think of these as 30 chunks of work that have to be done.’

‘Wow,’ said Harry. ‘Who knew it was so much?’

Ultimately, each of these 30 chunks will have to be estimated properly, but for today, let’s try this. Let’s estimate them approximately by categorising each of these 30 chunks into Small / Medium / Large / Extra Large.’

They did this:

  • Small (S) 11
  • Medium(M)              8
  • Large (L)   9
  • Extra Large (XL)   2 – the Hardware changes & the Software rewrite

‘Now,’ said Alice, ‘we’ll estimate how many person-days [PD] is in a Small one. Using this, we’ll then try to say that a Medium is so-many times a Small; a Large as so-many times a Medium and Extra Large so-many times a Large[1].

They did this:

Size Number of this size chunk Estimated size Estimated number of person-days in chunk Total person-days for all chunks
S 11 50 person-days 50 550
M 8 Twice a Small 100 800
L 9 2 ½ times a Medium 250 2,250
XL 2 Three times a Large 750 1,500
Total 5,100

‘Now,’ explained Alice, doing the arithmetic on a flip chart, ‘if the project were to last six months, which is about 120 days, then you would need an average of about 43 people working on the project.’

‘You have less than half that,’ she said. ‘You have twenty.’

Alice was careful to say ‘you’ rather than ‘we’. Language was and is important. This whole six-month thing was B-Bob’s idea and it was good to remind him of that fact.

Alice wrote the final ‘20’ and sat down. There was a deathly silence.

For a long time nobody spoke.

Everybody turned to look at B-Bob.

‘We’ll just have to become more efficient,’ he said, at length.

‘That might get you an extra ten percent,’ said Alice.

‘We can add more people,’ countered B-Bob.

‘We’d have to find those people, hire or contract them, find places for them to work, tools for them to work with, they’d have a learning curve, they’d take time away from the people already on the project –‘

B-Bob stood up and glared around the room.

‘You’ll just have to find a way!’ he snapped and walked out.

The silence which followed was deafening.

Eventually, it was Alice who spoke.

‘We need to estimate each of the chunks accurately and then build a plan. If I could get half a day with each of you next week, then we could crack a lot of this.’

There was a chorus of slightly stunned ‘sures’.

Alice went back to her desk and began to write this week’s project status report. This is what she wrote:

X Project

Status Report – Week 1

DISTRIBUTION: Bob, Harry, Sammy, Magnus, Patricia, Ted


Since there is no plan for the project, it’s impossible to say what the status is at this stage.



Date – week ending Event  
Week 1

Friday 6 January

We started and the stakeholders requested that the project be completed by 30 June i.e. in six months


Alice then attached this to an email and sent it out to the people on the distribution list.

Having decided there was nothing more she could usefully do this week, and seeing that it was just after four and that she was feeling very Friday, Alice decided it was time to go home. The weekend beckoned. She had plans.

She had just put her laptop in its bag and was putting on her coat when B-Bob looked in.

‘Alice,’ he said, ‘can I have a word?’

This was only Alice’s third job – she had been working for about six years – but she was experienced enough to know that when the Big Boss, late on a Friday, asks if he can have a word, then there’s a good chance it’s not going to end well.




[1] You’ll find this technique described in detail in chapter 11 of this book https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/1472119061/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i8




Alice doesn’t claim to know much about politics and while she’s learning more about project management every day, she already knows a fair amount.

Thus, she’s not in the least surprised that Brexit is going to miss its ‘do or die’ target of 31 October.

Alice knew, right back when Boris Johnson became Prime Minister on the back of his promise that he would get Brexit done by 31 October, that it wasn’t going to happen.

He didn’t have a plan – it was as clear as day to anybody with a passing knowledge of project management. As soon as a boss or stakeholder starts to say the things that B-Bob says in episode 1 (or that Boris said back when), you can be sure that they’re no longer in touch with reality.

Alice thinks project management is a noble profession and that when a project manager promises something and fails to deliver, then he or she should resign or be fired.

Other people may feel that Boris’ promise was just one more politician’s promise to be broken and that it’s no big deal.