tick tock time is of the essence

tick tock time is of the essence


You’ve just been assigned the project, been briefed and you’ve read the background material, what’s next?

What’s next is to start counting lost time because you are already late!

You were probably late when you got the assignment, but you are definitely late having got to this point and just spent your time reading.

You think this is extreme? Most people do. That’s why most projects run late!

Most time gets lost in the first 10% or so of the project cycle, either directly through slow ramp-up, or because of delayed decisions.

Most people don’t understand that there is an inverse power law at work in projects, where each unit of time lost at the beginning of a project is significantly more impactful than time lost later in the project.  Towards the end you can calculate lost time in real-time as “day for day” but earlier there is always a multiplier, and at the beginning of the project that multiplier is large.

But, you might say: the project end date hasn’t been set yet! But you would be wrong in almost all cases. A range of “acceptable end dates” has almost certainly been set in you sponsors mind. The market conditions for your product are almost certainly peaking now or very soon.  You also might say: “but I don’t know anything about the project yet”. The answer is “so what! You don’t need to in order to act!” The only thing you need to know is who does know and go and talk to them.

As a project leader, your biggest contribution is to act! You must build momentum, and orchestrate those people, organisations and other resources that do know what to do, or can find out who can decide, or to collaborate and make the decision.  I know this because I’ve done it myself in the past: read through all the documentation, discussed things with my manager and existing PM if there is one, and then started to work on building up the momentum: fitting in with the existing commitments of these incipient team members or their managers.  And that time always came back to bit me.

Assuming yours is a project of merit and significance to the company, your project has a certain priority too, and its priority at the beginning of its lifecycle is far higher than later on.  So you need to push that priority status as far as you can, and as quickly as you can.  If you find that you bump into other projects of equal or higher priority, you can manage around that, but surely an ordinary meeting is no reason to block your project of priority.

Visualise the project context as an avalanche, and the only way you are going to manage is to get ahead of it, at least for any market focused project. The avalanche is just starting, but you are stationary. You have to gain momentum faster than the avalanche, or you have no chance of outrunning

Forget the things that you think will go well. Just think about all the latent project entropy that is waiting for you: all those postponed meetings and disagreements, all those misunderstandings, all those priority conflicts and resource gaps.  But, you’ll never find them if you don’t act, and it’s my experience that a considerable number of these issues occur due to slow momentum and low speed.

How do you prevent this? Act! and act now.

oh, and check out Project Action Principle #1: Deliver Outcomes, Rapidly