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I feel the need, the need for speed

Is a quote from the film Top Gun where Tom Cruise plays United States Naval Aviator Lieutenant Pete “Maverick” Mitchell.

We appear to be obsessed with time. ‘I want it all and I want it now’ sang Freddie Mercury (lead singer of the band Queen).

At the start of the project everyone is focused on go live. How many days to go live? Can we bring it forward? What is the critical path? Who do we need to motivate, to cajole, to encourage, to bring it over the line quicker? Let us identify the best individuals and bring them into the team; discard those who cannot perform.  If decisions need to be taken, then we will take them.

We are told that the project time-scales need shortening. The reasons:

  • competitive pressures
  • legal needs (to meet mandatory requirements dictated by the law)
  • deliver organisational growth targets
  • improve competitive capabilities
  • provide better management information
  • meet the financial year end
  • commitments made to the great and the good

and so the list goes on.

Yet this focus on time is very much a Western Europe / North America concept.

In the book ‘Riding the Waves of Culture’ the authors reference Time Horizons and how different cultures view past, present and future.

So let us consider adopting the approach of some cultures, where the past, present and future are all considered against a backdrop of a much longer time-frame: by doing so we get a very different perspective. We do not focus purely on go live, on getting the system ‘over the line’ in as short a period as possible.

More time spent on considering a design, on garnering input from a wider range of stakeholders could well uncover important points that would have otherwise been missed. Instead of a two week period of User Acceptance Testing, if this is extended to three weeks there is 50% more time to run a larger set of tests and get more involvement.

It is very likely that the outputs from the project (i.e. the system) will be in use three to five years from now. For the end users who will live day to day with the solution, they deserve the opportunity to provide considered input to the decisions taken on system operation.

It was Mahatma Gandhi who said that “There is more to life than simply increasing its speed.”

At Touchstone Energy we recognise that there is pressure on starting the project, getting the plans in place and getting the system live so the benefits can be delivered. We also recognise that quality design decisions cannot be hurried.  Putting people under pressure to complete testing could result in a lack of focus, so there needs to be a sensible period for testing. Users who are not trained properly in advance of go live make mistakes when using the system. Mistakes lead to non-conformance and reduced productivity.

So we must challenge the project time-line asking two questions, the usual one of ‘Can we bring the go live forward?’, and just as important ‘Should we take longer as part of a quality approach to delivery?’

By John Chapman, Programme Director


Riding the Waves of Culture, Understanding Cultural Diversity in Business, Fons Trompenaars and Charles Hampden-Turner, 2nd Edition, ISBN13: 978-85788-179-9

‘I want it all’ by Queen from their album ‘The Miracle’

Top Gun 1986


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