Desperate for Done

The following entry is a part of the Pattern Library. The Pattern Library records the common patterns of events that have the potential to lead to project failure.

Name : Desperate for done
Scope : Behavioral pattern (patterns that influence the actions of an individual or group)

Outline :
Tracking the status of tasks is a key responsibility for the Project Manager. As part of that responsibility, Project Managers interact with the team to monitor the completion of each individual activity in the plan.  Although that sounds simple, it’s sometimes not as easy as it sounds. The difficulty arises from defining what “done” means.  In real world situations the word “done” can have different meanings. Project Managers are sometimes under such pressure that they are desperate to hear the word “done” and the pressures prevent them asking for more detail about what “done” really means. In the general case, Project Managers assume appropriate quality tests have been done when in fact they have not.

Typical sequence of events :

  1. Project Manager is urgently awaiting the completion of a specific task
  2. There is no agreement between the team member and the Project Management about what “done” really means
  3. The desire to please and a rush to keep moving forward results in the person responsible for the task reporting the task as “done” prematurely (i.e. the quality of the product produced has been compromised in a rush to get to “done”)
  4. Quality problems surface late in the game and disrupt or destabilize the project’s progress.

Negative effects :

  1. Misunderstandings (especially related to the level of quality checks that have been performed)
  2. Undetected errors and omissions
  3. Increased rework costs as problems surface late in the project lifecycle

Common Root Causes :

  1. Schedule pressure
  2. Poor communications
  3. Lack of agreed quality standards or procedures
  4. The desire to get another task marked as 100% on the Gantt chart

Suggested Actions :

  1. Be clear on what “done” means
  2. Make sure quality is factored into the “done” decision
  3. Ask for more detail than simply “done”
  4. Establish a culture in which the definition of “done” includes appropriate levels of quality checks and testing

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