Tuesday, April 04, 2006

The Danger of Success

Pascal Van Cauwenberghe has posted an interesting article on the danger of succeeding with Theory Of Constraints. He is quite right. If your part of a process has been the system constraint, and you elevate it, some other part of the process will be the new constraint. The people responsible for that part of the process may be rather unhappy with you.

A friend of mine took a job as a subcontractor. He finished his job ahead of time, with no defects at all in his work. His manager was not happy. My friend was accused of "idling", because he had finished ahead of schedule.

The idea that it was the manager who was slow in obtaining more work was of course never under consideration. Nor was it ever under discussion that if the contract had been anything other than a time-and-materials contract, finishing early would not have reduced the net profit.

Quite often the slowpokes protect each other without even realizing they are doing it. I once worked at a company where nothing had less than 6 months lead time. Set up a web server, 6 months. Set up a build system, 9 months. Start working on a project, at least 6 months of up front design.

I have never been good at shutting up, so I pointed out that 6 months of up front design not only slowed the project down (see my postings about iteration size), it also deprieved us of feedback, so it was impossible to verify that the design really worked. I was told by the project manager that having a 6 month design phase did not matter, because we were waiting for the web server anyway.

Of course, the IT department that took 6 months to do a 1 day job felt no pressure either. The project was just in the design phase anyway, so why would we need a web server?

If we had set up the web server ourselves, it still would not have solved our problems, because we did not have the build machine. Still, none of that mattered, for getting a development database set up also took 6 months.

There was one thing more that was 6 months: the time estimate for the project.

Ah, well. There is no business like the IT business.

No comments: