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 Effective Engineering e-Newsletter – 7/6/2006

This is your monthly e-Newsletter from
Effective Engineering Consulting Services (www.effectiveeng.com).  If you would like to receive Effective Engineering e-newsletters as they are published, please send an email to e-newsletter@effectiveeng.com, and we will add you to our distribution list.  Comments and suggestions are welcome and encouraged!


If You Want It Bad, You’ll Get It . . . Bad!

  By Tom Dennis – President, Effective Engineering [tdennis@effectiveeng.com]

You and your team are working as hard as you can to deliver on your development deadline commitments, and you want to be sure that the product you deliver is of high quality.  However, unforeseen problems have arisen that make it questionable that you will be able to deliver a quality product on time.  The pressure is incredible.  Your boss is saying things like, “I don’t care how you do it, but get me something by Friday!”, or, “I don’t care if it’s complete or fully ready; I need something now!”, or, “Don’t confuse me with the facts; just get me what I want, now!”  Your boss has promised this to his boss, and your boss’s boss has promised this to his boss.  No one wants to be embarrassed in front of their boss.  However, you know that if what you deliver doesn’t work properly, or isn’t really complete or fully ready, or isn’t of high quality, despite what your boss may say at the time, you will be crucified.  You are stuck with the dilemma that “if you want it bad, you’ll get it . . . bad!

Clearly, the world is moving faster and faster.  Competitors are selling products which can take away your company’s market share.  If your product isn’t released to market within a certain timeframe, the company may face dire circumstances.  Pressures to deliver more faster are very real, and demands to do so are made all of the time. 

What can be done to endure in a chaotic world?  First and foremost, it comes to doing the basics right. 

Have the product requirements been fully specified, and are they really complete?  [See eN-030619 – What Do Your Customers Really Want?, eN-030703 – Product Definition: Define What It Is and What It Isn’t, eN-030717 – Write It Down and Signe It Off, eN-030925 – Development Methodology: Requirements.]  Incomplete requirements or continually changing requirements will doom a product from meeting its goals.  Agreement on what the product is and what it is not is critical.

Is the project plan complete, and does it take into account the many tasks and dependencies it should? [See eN-031023 – Development Methodology: Failing to Plan Means You Are Planning to Fail eN-040902 – Project Management: Planning -- Well Begun is Half Done, eN-041104 – Project Planning: Plan Based On What You Know, and On What You Don’t!, eN-050303 – Project Management: When Bad Things Happen to Good Projects.]  If you don’t know where you’re going or how to get there, it is highly unlikely that you will arrive at all, much less “on time”.  “Sunny day scenarios” or wishful thinking will not make a “hope” come true, and will far more likely ensure failure to deliver.  You will find that while you don’t think you have time to do things right, you will be forced to make time to do it over, to everyone’s detriment.

Are the right resources in place to do the job right? [See eN-030327 – Do Jobs Right – Assign the Right People!, eN-030313 – Move the Rocks and People Travel Faster.]  If the right people are not assigned to the right jobs, chances for success are poor to non-existent.  If obstacles to success cannot be removed or at least reduced, then delays are inevitable.

Are all of the people and groups involved in the project communicating effectively? [See eN-050602 – Speaking in Tongues, eN-050707 – Can You Hear Me Now?, eN-030508 – Are You Part of the Solution, or Part of the Problem?, eN-050407 – When It’s “Us” vs. “Them”, Nobody Wins!, eN-050901 – Dysfunctional Families.]  Everyone involved needs to agree on the common goals to be achieved and what “success” really means.  Different expectations from different parties will guarantee that what gets delivered will not be acceptable to all.

Is a solid development methodology in place? [See eN-030731 – Development Methodology: Too Much, Too Little, or “Just Right”?, eN-030828 – Development Methodology Basics: Stages of Development, eN-030911 – Development Methodology Basics: Management of Development., eN-041007 – Quality by Design!, eN-050505 – Make Quality a Full Member of Your Team!]  You need a viable approach to develop products successfully, to plan, design, build, test, validate, etc.  “Winging it” is not a viable path to success.

Assuming you are doing everything right, it is still likely that something will go wrong.  Designs may be untried and untested and found to have flaws.  Critical people may be out for illness or family problems.  Floods may close your facility (a very real problem this year in the northeast US).  Any number of untoward events may occur that you simply cannot plan for.  If sufficient contingency has been incorporated into your project plan, you may be able to compensate; however, even with contingency you may not be able to, and often, contingency gets forced out of your planning efforts in order to achieve “must have” dates.

You need to be honest about where things stand at all stages of the project and let people know the honest facts.  Giving people the answer they want to hear when it’s not true, or when you know they won’t accept any other answer is not wise; it will only set up unrealistic expectations (see eN-060608 – Unrealistic Expectations), and the facts will eventually become known and you will be far worse off for keeping them hidden.  This may not make you popular, but it will make you respected.

People must be lead and managed effectively (see eN-031106 – Herding Cats: The Art of “Managing” Engineers , eN-040205 – Mis-Managers – How Bad Managers Can Poison the Well, and related).  Flogging people to deliver on unrealistic demands won’t work (see eN-060504 – Floggings Will Continue Until Morale Improves!).  Quite the contrary, when getting flogged, the floggee will deliver just enough, barely, to get the flogger off his/her back.  Flogging won’t cause delivery of high quality product; it will result in delivery of mediocre product and a highly de-motivated work force.  Further, it will doom future development efforts to a similar destiny.

Everyone wants to deliver the best possible product on time and under budget, and proper planning and effective teamwork and management can help make this so.  But when things go wrong, remember, “If you want it bad, you’ll get it . . .  bad!

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Effective Engineering Consulting Services, All Rights Reserved

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