Are you on time, on budget or are you doomed but working on it?
Updated: Apr 1, 2018
Chicago - In 2004, 4 years after its originally due date Millennium Park opened its gates. Budget: $475M versus the planned $150M
Sydney - The Opera House is a true record setter by being 10 years late and costing 14x the original budget ($820M vs. $56M)
Budapest - The opening of Metro Line 4 was delayed 17 times and Phase 1 ended up being 4.5x over budget when finally completed in 2014
You may think that all those are failed government projects with bureaucratic deficiencies and insufficient project management discipline. You may think that those are segregated examples from three very different places but how often do you experience something similar first-hand?
Consulting companies are in the business of project management and thus, they are especially exposed to the two main underlying factors: planning fallacy and scope creep. Even the best of the bests face difficulties managing scope, optimistic scheduling bias, failed deadline, disputes with contractors and partners that don’t deliver on their promise, the need to undertake activities that are supposed to be provided by others and the list goes on and on. On time, on budget are the magic words everyone wants to deliver for the duration of the project and every client wants to hear. However, it requires discipline upfront to balance the strong desire to impress the prospect with the best case scenario and to protect the reputation and the project team with planning for catastrophe (or at least for an unlikely but probable pessimistic scenario). Recognizing our cognitive biases, learning from our past experiences, asking others to validate the plan can significantly improve the project delivery process. However, if you find yourself in a place where pre-project planning didn't suffice and you have to deal with all kinds of disasters at once, remember what a phenomenal success the outcome of your work can be if you keep going and fight your way through hell.
Let the Hubble telescope stand here as a stunning example for turning an enormous embarrassment into a gigantic success. Not only was it 7 years late and five times over budget but it was out of focus and sent blurry images from space after its launch. Since its mirror was fixed 3 years later, Hubble has made more than 1.3 million observations. "Hubble actually allows our human minds and spirits to travel light-years, even billions of light-years," NASA sciences chief Ed Weiler. Originally, it was planned to last 3 years. Now, 27 years later, it is still operational and doesn't fail to impress with gorgeous images that lead to scientific discoveries. No one seems to mind the price tag and the launch hiccups anymore - humans have various memory biases after all.