I am eating a fair few eggs at the moment, mainly for breakfast, they are good, healthy and fit my macros for the specific kinds of training I am doing. The challenge is to put in a bit of variety into the mix, scrambled eggs every day gets a bit dull. You have to mix things up and make something good from what's in the fridge and with what fits in with your macros for that part of the day.
That Impossible Demand
Recently I was met with a demand to radically increase the speed of delivery around a specific project. This wasn't something simple like delivering a week or two earlier. I had been requested to outline what an organisation would need to do to build and deploy an absence solution in 8 weeks rather than 6 months.
I already had a plan in place for the 6 month time frame, activities and resource deployments etc, what I had to do was try and explain what needed to happen to make an 8 week window possible.
"It isn't" was my immediate response.
Unsurprisingly this answer wasn't good enough, and to be fair, it wasn't to me either. I was working with my existing knowledge of how I had deployed my available resources. What the commitments were in other areas of the programme of work, but also my knowledge of the external consultancy market, as a critical part of this work would be getting in consultants to support some of the developments.
Now I am sure I am am just one of many project managers who have experienced a similar situation. The powers that be want to either rapidly increase delivery of a project or add in more requirements to be completed in the same time period. I am also sure that I am not the only project manager ever to have been faced with a blank stare when saying its not possible under the current conditions.
I had to find some way of explaining to people some of the most basic principles associated with project delivery to make a hard point. I tried some of the standard diagrams about resource, quality time etc all being linked, but that didnt really cut the mustard for some reason. So I had to come up with something else.
Bringing it back to basics
Which brings me back to my breakfast, as I spoke to more people about this I started referring to my challenge of keeping my breakfast interesting, and working with the resources I had.
Bear with me on this…
I know I have a box of 6 eggs in the house, that's all I have. With those eggs, I can do a range of things, omelettes, scrambled, fried. I can have 1 big omelette or 6 small ones or any combination in between, but never anything that uses more than those 6 eggs.
Applying time and resource
My planning window for the organisation is made up of time and resource, thats my egg box, its time bound and I have a specific number of slots in there that I can do things with.
Eggs represent the things we want to deliver, an absence module, new receipting functions, a complex bit of SQL to support integration. These things fit into the slots. Once I have filled all six that's it I can't do anything else.
If I try and fit another delivery item into that window, I have to move something out, yes I can try and squeeze something in, but what happens? You end up with some broken eggs, maybe one, perhaps more, mainly because of the disruption of trying to ram something into a space it wont fit.
Making more resource available
The only way to fit in more work is to create more resource, or buy another egg box. Its only by adding that additional resource that you can hope to deliver more in the same time.
Of course all this needs to be tempered, you can't just continue adding more resource and expect to continue to deliver more, and some audiences may feel that this is a little patronising. However I found that when I started using this example in discussions, it really helped with engagement.
For me that's the one of the challenges and joys, particularly of information project management, its facilitating that communication, being able to act as an interpreter. If I can help all people involved in a project come to a mutual understanding of where we are and what needs to be done, then we can all ensure that the project meets its expectations.
So don't be afraid to use plain language and simple explanations, technical terminology, doesn't make you sound clever, demonstrating your understanding and communicating it does.