As a game mechanic timed challenges, work to create an instant sense of urgency. In real life running a business and a project is like a multi-level and often multi-player game with timed challenges or deadlines in it. Every good project manager knows that timing is probably the hardest of the resources to predict, people the hardest to manage and changes a constant negotiation tool to stick to budgets.
When working with a variety of providers from around the world, managing the time challenge for delivery is not easy. Also getting a developer in any country around the world to tell you how long something takes, is as if you have asked for stumped silence in every language. It seems a reasonable question, yet the answers are rarely forthcoming. I understand that when something goes smoothly, something can be done in less time than when there are obstacles. I usually look for the best and worst case scenarios, so that at least I can communicate with clients.
When something is not going according to time, I usually tend to be the last person informed as the project lead, which really annoys me. If I know ahead of time, if we are in trouble for timelines, then we can work around it. If I find out when it is too late, then we all lose credibility and as a project lead I lose trust in your ability to deliver. I have tried asking before we start a development how long things will take, ask again probably in every second conversation or email and the answers continue to elude some suppliers. I think I may need to put new criteria in place for suppliers so at least I can remain professional with clients and tell them what is realistic and what is isn’t based on the answers from developers.
Most of us perform more, just before we go on holidays and in the lead up of important deadlines. I have never in my life had to face broken deadlines as much as working with developers on software projects. Is it that they are working with the vast unknown or is it simply because time seems to work differently in their computerised way of working? I do wonder. Having a perfectionist streak myself, I know signing something over that isn’t yet the way you want it to be, is not easy. With time and experience there comes a point where it is good enough and at that point you can still iterate even if live.
Some companies launch most softwares with bugs in them and then send you bug fixes within days of the first installation. Same with games and apps, many iterate and bug fix on a weekly or monthly basis. Some days I wish I could do more of it myself and I have had to learn so many skills already in order to have meaningful conversations with the people delivering on a skill, that maybe it is a good thing that I can’t do it all. I don’t mind mistakes, we are all human in the end and make errors. However, not willing to state a time when something will be done, makes it impossible in a business setting to work with. It’s like setting a timed challenge with no realistic chance of ever making it or some ridiculously hard level where only by pure chance once in a million times, you will make it. Either way it isn’t how I like to run projects, even if lately that seems to be modus operandi by providers of services.
Some providers on the other hand are great. They tell you how long something will take from the get go and if they run a day or so later they pro-actively tell you what is happening. On a daily or weekly basis you receive an update of what they are working on and what the progress is, even without having to ask them. Those are gems to work with and worth treasuring for the long haul. Timed challenges are always smoother with these kinds of helpers on the books. I am looking for more of these gems for our wordpress, app and integration projects. The proof is always in the first test project.