Tuesday, 17 March 2015 10:33

How Confident are You?

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Choose your company or project … I'll even go out on a limb and say that it really doesn't matter the size or scope of the initiative … The story is always the same …

There is work to be done that is not fully understood by management, who wants it done yesterday.

The groups in the trenches performing the work are asked "when it will be done." This usually entails detailing plans, or in many cases simply communicating a "completion date."

This date is then adopted by middle management as a promise and communicated as such to the upper echelons of the company.

All of the schedule risk is then bore by the workers in the trenches who communicated the completion date.

As far as middle management is concerned, so long as the date was not accompanied by assumptions, constraints and stipulations, it does in fact represent a promise of 100% completion, on and by said date.

What's wrong with this picture? Why is this pattern so prevalent and pervasive?

The good news is that there is a relatively simple and highly effective tool that the "folks in the trenches" can use to greatly reduce the amount of schedule risk borne, while facilitating needed communication with management.

This tool is a LOC, or "Level of Confidence" indicator.

Let's rewind our story to the beginning (Rewind sound …)

  • There is work to be done that is not fully understood by management, who wants it done yesterday.
  • The groups in the trenches performing the work are asked "when it will be done.
  • A completion date is communicated … along with a 50% associated Level of Confidence. Management's brow furrows … What's this Level of Confidence percentage, they ask? It is then explained that the 50% LOC was provided as management needed a date right away, and the delivery team is not prepared to present a date that they are 100% "confident" in standing behind.
  • Fifty percent LOC represents that the team is 50% confident and that the estimate could vary an additional 50%. The next round of questions and answers is priceless, and makes the whole exercise worthwhile.

Mgt - Why are you only 50% confident? Do you have the right resources involved in this project?
Deliv - Yes, the appropriate resources are being engaged and we've already been through a good deal of application testing. We still need to test X# of additional components that directly affect (the following top clients)multiple parties. Not doing so could be catastrophic!
Mgt - OK, how long will that take?
Deliv - We are working diligently to determine this and will adjust our LOC % for the next status report.
Mgt - What else do you need to increase your LOC %
Deliv - Well, if we had two more top developers fully engaged, we could speed things along nicely …

The point here is that none of the communication transpiring would not be taking place had the Level of confidence percentage not been part of the communication.

Capturing Level of Confidence facilitates realization of benefits across multiple stakeholder and the project overall … as well as:

  1. Allows those communicating completion dates to bear “Less Schedule Risk.”
  2. Causes “Shame reporting” for those falling behind and “Horse Races” for those in the lead (on projects with multiple teams).
  3. Drives out reasons for low levels of confidence and helps drive communication around solutions to mitigate schedule Risk,.
  4. Increases management awareness/visibility/understanding of challenges and roadblocks.

You’ll soon be asked for dates … How confident are you?

Don't forget to leave your comments below.

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Sean Lowe

Sean Lowe is a project manager and freelance writer with 20 years of experience managing systems integration, process development, security and compliance projects. He is certified as a Project Management Professional (PMP®) by the Project Management Institute. He can be reached at Lowesean@mac.com.

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