Bill, a software manager, had only been in the job
for about a month. He was now the manager of a very
large software project and his 12 top managers were
all in the room. This programming group had not made
a schedule in recorded history and now the company
really needed their product fast. Bill had
successfully managed several previous projects and he
had been selected to straighten this one out.
Vin, the company senior vice president, had called a meeting with
Bill and his top software managers. Vin spent the first 20 minutes
chewing them all out. The company was ready to ship hardware and the
software was not ready. They had promised to deliver months ago and had
missed every single date. Now, nobody believed them. Vin demanded a
delivery schedule in two weeks.
When Vin stopped talking, everyone looked at Bill. This was the time
to put up or shut up. Bill knew there was no way to produce a project
plan in two weeks. Several hundred people were working on this project
and it would take a week just to tell everybody what to do. Bill knew
that a schedule without a plan would be a guess and the last thing he
wanted to do now was to guess. The new dates would then be no better
than all the others and it would only be a matter of time before Bill
was on the scrap heap with all the other failed software managers. Bill
didn’t know how Vin would react but he did know that if he didn’t take a
stand right now, he would never have a better chance. He figured that
since he had just been put in this job, they wouldn’t fire him this
Bill told Vin, "We could make a guess, and give it to you today. But
if you want a date we will actually meet, we must make a plan, and that
will take 60 days."
Vin was surprised. He looked around the room and asked the
managers what they thought. Each manager, when asked, said, "Yup, it
would take 60 days to make a plan."
In the end, Vin agreed and gave the project the 60 days they
needed to produce a plan and a schedule.
After the meeting, Bill was hailed as a hero. For the first time,
their boss had stood up to management pressure and had gotten the time
to make a real plan. Bill never knew whether Vin had staged the meeting
to test him, but it didn’t matter, it had a marvelous effect. The
managers were now committed to producing a plan in 60 days, and they
intended to make a plan they would actually meet.
They did in fact finish the plan in 60 days. With the time to
thoughtfully make a plan, the managers compared their new work with what
they had done before. By using historical data, they were much more
realistic. This made the schedules longer than anyone wanted, and many
of the key functions were spread over several releases. What surprised
everyone was that with realistic schedules, they could now think about
their work instead of reacting. They found they were meeting their
interim dates and they could count on their coworkers to meet theirs.
As a result, they delivered the first release ahead of schedule and
didn’t miss a single date for the next two and a half years.