Saturday, May 23, 2015

Management's indecision

This is a true story. The company name has been changed.


Until now, the Acme Corporation had published product and customer-support information on its web site. The new project would expand the web site’s capabilities by allowing customers to purchase from the web site.

The schedule was the driving force in planning the project, as Acme wanted to capitalize on the crucial Christmas shopping period. The project manager identified finalization of the technical decisions as a critical milestone in the project. The IT Director would need to evaluate and determine the technical direction timely. The project manager made sure the project steering committee was aware of this significant dependency.

The situation

At the project steering committee meeting where the technical direction was supposed to be presented by the IT Director, he instead covered several discussion items. He reviewed his key considerations such as fit with strategic direction, impact on the existing web site environment, stability, and pricing. However, he had not made a decision.

The project manager made her concerns clear; the lack of decision would have an impact on the project schedule.

The IT Director was dismissive of the project manager’s concerns; surely it was better to wait a bit to get a better decision. The steering committee did not pressure the IT Director to finalize the decision.  

Delay continues

The IT Director continued to delay. The project manager followed up regularly with the IT Director, and moved as much work as possible forward. However, with no environment in which to begin programming, there really was very little that could be done.

The decision is made

Once the IT Director finally made the technical decisions, the project manager could see that the work was already a month behind schedule.

The project manager discussed her concerns about the timeline with the project steering committee. It was clear that the deadline could not be moved, as the retail web site was intended to attract customers during the Christmas shopping season.

The only options were to reduce the scope of the project, or to add resources. The project steering committee members were adamant that that neither was possible. The budget did not permit additional resources, and the entire scope of the project was thought to be completely necessary to its success. The team would just have to manage to get the job done.


The project manager and the team did make a valiant effort to get the job done. The programming and testing team members worked very long hours. However, time did run short, and some scope did have to get cut in order to finish on time.

Although the web site was up and running in time for the Christmas shopping season, it did not perform well under some conditions. The project team was completely exhausted.


The IT Director’s and the project steering committee’s lack of concern for the timeliness of the technical decisions was unreasonable. When the technical decisions were finally made, the project steering committee’s refusal to make a decision regarding resources or scope was also unreasonable.

Both the IT Director and the project steering committee did not recognize that the damage to the project was their own responsibility.  Instead, they claimed credit for the project completing on time and on budget.

Copyright 2015 Debbie Gallagher