Daniel Kahneman, in his book Thinking Fast and Slow, related a story of a team estimating how long it would take to complete a new textbook. A group of experts was called together to build a work plan, ultimately producing a detailed two-year schedule. When the schedule was challenged, it led to even stronger conviction by the team that indeed, they had thought through all the details and were pretty confident in their estimate.
When Kahneman asked the team to look into other similarly big projects, they came back with a very different conclusion. They found that 40% of the other projects had failed to finish, and the teams who actually completed took an average of seven years. They also saw that compared to those other big projects, their team had no special advantage when it came to their skills and resources. You might think that this would have opened their eyes, but in fact, they didn’t alter their plans or schedule from the original estimate. They got the funding approval and eventually completed the textbook, but it took them eight years instead of two. By then, it was out of date and never used.
So, if you have a major initiative or project, it’s a good bet that there is unanticipated work beneath the surface that will add substantially to the schedule and resources it will take. If your team is stretched at the beginning of a new project, it will most likely become worse as things progress.
To win the battle of setting and acting on strategic priorities, Innolect can help:
- Facilitate a real dialog about the strategic objectives of the organization,
- Reach agreement on set of criteria and model for evaluation of all initiatives, and
- Engage the right stakeholders and subject matter experts in a valid, quantitative comparison of your initiatives.
- Design metrics and conduct periodic reviews to assure focus and accountability.
- Create internal ownership as a sustainable part of an innovative performance culture.
To learn more about Innolect’s priority setting and decision analysis services, contact Kittie Watson.