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The Least Used Option

“We need to estimate how many people we need, how much time, and how much money. Then we’ll know when we’re running late and we can, um, do something.”

OK, assuming we are indeed running late and, as ever, “schedule is king“. WTF are our options?

  • We can add more people.
  • We can explicitly or (preferably) implicitly impose mandatory overtime; paid or (preferably) unpaid.
  • We can reduce the project scope.

The least used option, because it’s the only one that would put management in an uncomfortable position with the customer(s), is the last one. This, in spite of the fact that it is the best option for the team’s well being over both the short and long term.


  1. June 14, 2013 at 2:33 am

    I have asked this question of roomfuls of professionals on many occasions, and am always surprised by the almost universal ignorance of the FOURTH option: becoming more effective (aka productive).

    – Bob

    • June 14, 2013 at 3:56 am

      Hi Bob. I’m not sure I agree that increasing effectiveness is an option for a project in crisis that has a hard deadline looming. It’s an obviously great long term solution, but it seems like you can’t become instantaneously more productive on said project. I’ll stick to my guns for this specific example – the best overall option in the circumstance given is to reduce scope. Plus, no matter how effective you are, it won’t stand up against insane schedules. Bogus schedules imposed from without trump increased effectiveness from within.

      • June 14, 2013 at 4:07 am

        Agreed on the latter point, but I have seen enough amazing uplifts in effectiveness – in timeframes of just a few days or weeks – to disagree with your assertion.

      • June 14, 2013 at 4:14 am

        Can you give me examples of what was done to greatly increase effectiveness in a few days?

  2. June 14, 2013 at 9:40 am

    An important question to ask is, who made schedule king? Too many of these types of dilemmas seem to come from unrealistic promises followed by unrealistic expectations and zero communication. If neither scope nor schedule can budge, I tend to suspect the customer is being kept clueless so that someone can save face.

    • June 14, 2013 at 10:18 am

      I think “Schedule Is King” may be an ethos at many companies so that its proponents can claim that they’re always “under budget and on time”. When the dudes at the top ooze SIK, it drips on those below. 🙂

      • June 14, 2013 at 10:46 am

        It also drips on the client as well.

        The best successes I’ve ever had came down to communication: customer talks about what (they think) they want, team discuss costs and benefits, make suggestions…with scope from customer & estimates from team, plan is negotiated…as new info is learned or customer needs change, plan is tweaked…lather, rinse, repeat.

  3. dancarins
    June 14, 2013 at 12:41 pm

    Maybe you could reconcile “reduce the scope” with “become more productive” by excluding “idle chatter”, “spending ages making cups of tea”, “organising your hen party”, “wasting time checking emails”, and most importantly, “doing pointless tasks which have no impact on the quality of the outcome” from the scope?

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