Why is every project delivered on time?

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Training how and what to manage in projects and how and what to measure in projects has unfortunately become a science that has completely disconnected itself from educating why the project is necessary and why it was completed before or on the original due date, within budget while delivering the full original scope.

The difference between: "How, What, Where, When" and "Why" has created a gap that represents the size of net profit vs. bailout in corporations and the size of traffic jams vs. the speed limit in municipalities.

The necessity has not become to fine-tune a body of "knowledge" to "train" members to more precisely and in a balanced way to deliver late, over budget and out of scope. The necessity has become to do virtually the opposite.

This creates an enormous opportunity!

Instinctively and indoctrinated everyone will diligently improve the "measurements" and "scores" of how, what, where, and when, because this is what our education "system" has thoroughly prepared us for. Results show, however, that this has so far not been the answer, but what then?

The answer lies in inherent simplicity. The type of simplicity that we are trained out of. Even a three to four year old asks better questions than most of us adults with training.

A young child's question is usually: "Why?" Their thinking is based on freedom and not limited by a body of (erroneous) assumptions. When the child asks easy why questions, the parent will often answer gladly, however, as they get more difficult, it becomes annoying, because it requires effect-cause-effect thinking, which requires cognitive skills.

"Why" leads to understanding, on the other hand "what, how, where and when" leads to: “There is nothing quite so useless, as doing with great efficiency, that which should not be done at all.” - Dr. Drucker

Balancing "what, how, where and when" could at best put us precisely, and in great detail, in the same boat as our mediocre competitor.

So far I expect to have sufficiently demonstrated that perfection of "what, how, where and when" does more damage than good to the end result.

Having established that improving "what, how, where and when" in project management has become a dead horse, it should drive us to find (hidden) assumptions that prevent us from seeing the obvious.

Removing hidden assumptions and questioning (assumed) truth leads to unrest, annoyance, great push-back, perhaps even defiance and losing face.

Few things are greater than someone's pride in their education credentials, career and experience, in fact, the first things mentioned by a defiant, is the measured length of their experience, the height of their credentials and the size of cost accounting based ROI, but seldom their net profit contribution.

Realizing this, I will provide a few simple questions with great respect and humbleness, but perhaps to the great annoyance of a "professional".

"Why is it impossible that the completion of this project will not significantly raise net profit? Why will this project be delivered early or on the originally set due date? Why will this project be under or within the originally set budget? Why will this project deliver its original scope or more?"

The simplicity of these questions should already indicate that even basic questions are not even answered prior to the "how, what, where and when" stage. We start "planning" how to be "balanced" and meet "milestones" and due dates (except the original due date). A milestone then usually ends up being a stone that ended up a mile further than where we aimed it.

When using a screwdriver to hit a nail, and a hammer to hit a screw, why is it our first instinct that starts imagining improvements to the hammer and to the screw driver? In other words, what leads us to more "professionally" and in a more "balanced" way deliver projects late, while continuing to improve the precision and statistics to measure in greater detail the lateness, budget overruns, and lack of scope?

The answers to these questions are not found in tools and erroneous assumptions. These answers require thinking, which means reasoning, which means questioning the reasons.

Nothing is as awful as questioning reasons!

Imagine you were responsible for delivering a project early, on time, within budget, while meeting or exceeding its original scope. However, one of the three ended up not being met. Suppose the project either was not on time, went over budget, or lacked scope. It leads to blaming circumstances, if not finger pointing, doesn't it? Especially then, "why" questions are uncomfortable and lead to blaming and finger pointing. This has occurred so often, that we have made great "improvements" to our expectations, in other words, we already assume that a project will be late, over budget, lack scope or all of the above. Can we really call this "improvement"?

What is an improvement? Its dictionary meaning: "A bringing into a more valuable or desirable condition." In business improvement one cannot argue that a company that currently and in the future continues to increase its net profits, within a responsible way, will never go out of business. Although this statement seems common sense, a lot is hidden in this description. This means that the life of a company depends on and can only be influenced by two things: time and money.

If a company runs out of either time, or money, there is no company. A project is no different, it only has two things that guarantee its existence: time and money. In a project we can only run out of one of two things: time or money.

"Time is the scarcest resource and unless it is managed nothing else can be managed." - Dr. Peter Drucker

Ironically in many multi-project environments, everything is "balanced" and "measured", the balance is scored, resources and measurements are managed in great detail, except the duration time of the project, which "surprisingly" moved out to a further date, shifting the expected start and due dates of all projects following this "surprisingly" late project.

In some multi-project environments, delivering the original scope, within the original budget early and on-time, would be the greatest surprise itself!

What is the definition of insanity? "Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." - Albert Einstein

Peter Mol

Peter has extensive experience working with mid- and c-level management teams, helping them to increase their throughput and level of performance. He has consulted with plants in a variety of manufacturing industries, including automotive, fabrication, food, plastics, stamping, aluminum and steel.

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