A fine example of what not to do

2019-10-23

I have to share this story from the classic book Peopleware because I’ve been thinking about it all day. I’m paraphrasing, and the book is excellent so maybe just pick it up instead of reading this post.

A project manager is given a task. She does all the heavy lifting of planning it out and estimating the work, and reports back to the company’s executives that the project will be ready on March 1. Then her team gets to work.

A few months later, the executives call her back in to ask how the project is going. She reports that everything is going perfectly according to schedule, the team is nailing their projected deadlines exactly and she is able to guarantee (!) that the project will deliver on March 1 as promised.

The executives were delighted. After she left they engaged in some mutual pillow-fluffing and finally they called her again to say that since the project was going so well, they’d decided to move the deadline up to January 15.

That story makes my blood boil. I get angry every time I think about it.

What is it that makes it so hard to leave a good thing alone? What is it that makes people see the ultimate magic of a team meshing well, a project moving forward and a deadline that will actually be hit for once, and want to take it apart and start tinkering with the magic?

When it’s all working great, thank your lucky stars and take a step back. Let it be. Whatever you do, resist the urge to start tweaking stuff. You’ll thank yourself later.