Often in a project we focus on the wrong things.
Lets look at a project with the goal of building a plane that will take off. The challenge is that while we are building the plane it is slowly moving towards the end of the runway.
Once we run out of runway the project is over.
During the project we can do lots of things:
- we can add more plane builders when we need to (increasing the teams resource)
- reduce what we build on the plane (decrease scope)
- add dodgy bits on the plane (decrease quality)
- reduce the time we will have to see if it will actually take off (reduce testing/validation)
- or add some more runway (extend project)
All these things change the level of risk of the plane actually taking off when we get to the end of the runway.
So why do most steering committees focus on what is being added to the plane, not whether it will take off or not?
Why do so many projects report weekly and monthly on what they have added to the plane, not what is left to add to make it take off and whether it can be achieved with the resource and runway that is left.
Why do so many projects run out of runway and leave a business as usual team to deal with the managing an airplane that can barely keep above the ground?
So if we are focussing on success, everything we do and every question we ask should be couched in terms of will this stop us taking off before we run out of runway.
This is a good simple analogy. Project participants need to understand risk. The steering group needs to understand risk. Communication about the current state of risk and how that might change in the future amongst the participants is crucial.
Another aspect of a project that is often not apreciated is the alternatives to continuing to completion at all?
There are always competitors for the resources associated with a project. Your analogy needs another dimension related to context.
If the conext is changing rapidly you may just need to cancel the project, or it might just get cancelled underneath you.
The sea level is changing rapidly, your aircraft is the only lifeline to save you from drowning.
It’s war-time, and the enemy invasion forces are about to hit your borders
The other project sucessfully builds the personal anti-gravity device.