It’s not a fire

We had a problem with our supplier – they were offering us a really long lead time for an item we needed quite soon if we were to meet our customers’ expectations.

The comment made by the supplier was a little direct –

‘Lack of planning on your part does not constitute a fire on my part’.

We won’t be using that supplier in the future. What they said to us isn’t something I would ever recommend you say to a customer either. But it is worth keeping their comment in mind when you are next chasing a result.

Are you under pressure because you didn’t plan properly?

If that’s not the case, where is the fire?

At what point did your project or program get away from the planned timeline? What caused that to happen?

When you know these answers, the most important questions to ask yourself next are, ‘What could we have done to avoid this?’ and ‘Should we build in an allowance for this to happen again and put remedial measures in place?’.  (The answer to this second question is ‘Probably yes’ – unless it really was a unique set of circumstances.)

Most projects fail for two main reasons –

The first reason for failure is because they are not properly planned;  they aren’t broken down into measurable and achievable steps that have performance indicators attached to them. If you don’t set a target, how will you know when you’ve  achieved it?

The second – and perhaps more worrying – cause of failure is when both the plan and a means of measuring it exist, but the outcome is ignored or skipped over. Sometimes this can happen when the failure of a project means the loss of face or status is too great to accept. The project team can’t bring themselves to admit failure – and that can mean they move the target!

The more complex the project, and the more moving parts it comprises, the more important it becomes to break it down into manageable pieces, so you can measure performance at the lowest level.

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