I’ve been talking to a beleaguered colleague about his project schedule. “No matter what date I give them (senior management), they want an earlier date. I told them it doesn’t take nine women to make a baby in one month, I need some time for this project!”
The Bring me a rock schedule game occurs when “they” want it faster, but don’t tell you when or why. (In my experience, only senior management plays bring me a rock.) If they told you when, you could tell them what you can do. If they told you why, you along with the project team, could probably develop some creative solutions to meet their desires.
If you find yourself playing bring me a rock, stop and select one of at least these choices:
- Explain your confidence range for the date you provide. It’s possible your management doesn’t understand what your estimate means and it’s possible you don’t understand what they’re asking.
- Include release criteria with your date, so you can ask specific questions about how good/full the release has to be.
- Ask some questions before attempting to fetch more rocks: Would you prefer a short schedule or a longer one? More people or fewer? What if we implemented this feature with incredible performance, and ignored that feature? Can our users live with more defects?
- Elicit the strategic reasons for this project and learn what success means.
If you agree to a too-short schedule, you’re headed for project failure.
Johanna Rothman consults, speaks, and writes on managing high-technology product development. Johanna is the author of Manage It!’Your Guide to Modern Pragmatic Project Management’. She is the coauthor of the pragmatic Behind Closed Doors, Secrets of Great Management, and author of the highly acclaimed Hiring the Best Knowledge Workers, Techies & Nerds: The Secrets and Science of Hiring Technical People. And, Johanna is a host and session leader at the Amplifying Your Effectiveness (AYE) conference (http://www.ayeconference.com). You can see Johanna’s other writings at http://www.jrothman.com.