If all else Fails - Threaten the Project Manager

Posted by Kevin Brady on Sun 1st October 2006 at 11:17 PM, Filed in Industry News

I was recently looking over Scott Berkin’s Blog when I came across a statement made by one of the project managers working on Microsoft Vista:-

“After months of hearing of how a certain influential team in Windows was going to cause the Vista release to slip, I, full of abstract self-righteous misgivings as a stockholder, had at last the chance to speak with two of the team’s key managers, asking them how they could be so, please-excuse-the-term, I-don’t-mean-its-value-laden-connotation, ignorant as to proper estimation of software schedules.”

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Apparently they told their VP that Vista was going to slip big time. “And he, possibly influenced by one too many instances where engineering re-routes power to the warp core, thus completing the heretofore impossible six-hour task in a mere three, summarily sent the managers back to figure out how to make it work.” “The managers re-estimated, nipped and tucked, liposuctioned, did everything short of a lobotomy — and still did not have a schedule that fit.”

The VP was not pleased.

“You’re smart people! Find a way!”

This went back and forth for weeks, whereupon the intrepid managers finally understood how to get past the dilemma. They simply stopped telling the truth.

“Sure, everything fits. We cut and cut, and here we are. Vista by August or bust. You got it, boss.”

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Well they are bust!

Surprise surprise it’s August and its now being pushed forward to November with Computing Magazine saying that Microsoft are bullish once again about this new date . Some elements of the press are saying that they feel this date is optimistic and spring next year is more likely as the beta version of Vista is woefully slow and is displaying erratic test statistics concerning bugs being fixed and the discovery of new ones.

It is sad to see that even Microsoft, who is supposed to be closer to the GOD of successful Systems development, is resorting to threats in order to deliver a much overdue replacement for XP. By the repeated slippages is shows that despite the threats the management and development teams can make a “Pint fit into a Quart Pot”.

It is clear to me that the Project Management at Microsoft were doing a great job compared to the “sewer project management” I usually come across. They obviously had good up-to-date project plans because months before the expected delivery date they were able to show that Vista was significantly behind schedule. Instead of thanking these guys for bringing this to the VP’s attention at the earliest moment so that Microsoft had the opportunity to manage customer and shareholder expectations, it would appear that the VP behaved like a spoilt child. The VP is obviously made of the same stuff as the CEO, Steve Ballmer - read “Get Sacking - Path to Project Success ?

Agile dosen’t seem to be the order of the day in Microsoft smile

It is insights like this which tell me that old habits die hard and “fantasy project management” is still alive and well.

All this reminds me of Adolf Hitler in the last days of the war. Apparently the only generals who were tolerated at the map table were those prepared to deliver positive field reports and a willingness to engage in tactical discussions about the positioning of divisions which no longer existed! Anything less was considered defeatism with the ultimate threat of a firing squad.

Look where this approach got Adolf Hitler and the German people in 1945.

Looks to me like Microsoft and Vista have more bad publicity to come. How about listening to the Project Management team and “slip big, but once” and then perhaps bring it in early in order to restore confidence? An old technique I know, but it has worked for me many many times in the past. However, in my opinion it all depends on how big the senior managements B*lls are, and their willingness to push away a denial corporate culture.

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