Failure of perception, not of performance

Example of a target (red inverted triangle) vs the associated project milestone (blue diamond)

Example of a target (red inverted triangle) vs the associated project milestone (blue diamond)

Where do your schedule target dates come from? Are they fact or fiction?

In our experience, schedule target dates (i.e. the point in time which something is needed to be delivered) are difficult to determine. They should be driven by customer demand/needs, but all to often they are artificially generated by either top management or external partners in the case of co-development projects.

They can be artificialbecause in these cases the dates are used as mechanisms to drive a team to a higher level of performance. How many times have you heard "we have an aggressive schedule..."

This is usually followed by "rolling of the eyes" of the person telling you...herein starts the lying-game. Each level of management lyingto the next level down in order to "motivate" them into achieving super human performance. But in reality, it does not work that way. If anything this has a subtitle de-motivational impact on teams since everyone knows the dates are not real. In the end no one knows the real schedule or what the real financial impact is when a target date is missed.

Target dates should be driven by real customer or market demand. The cost of missing these dates should be known and used to create urgency. If the date is real and can't be met then actions must be taken before-the-fact (i.e. now) to change the outcome (i.e. change the product, change the goal, change the success criteria, kill the project before you waste more money, and so on). When target dates are real and known by the team, the available time frame can be used to make the necessary trade-offs to ensure project success.

We have examples where real schedule information was shared between customers and suppliers and between top management and development teams and in most of these cases these projects were successful. We also have lots of experience observing failed ventures where information was not shared, trade-offs where not made, and teams experienced huge gaps in project delivery versus the expected target date.