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The Definition of Late

A late project? Well, it has been known to happen. According to my wife (who has got a far better memory than me), almost all my projects are late. 

I attempt to explain that they are not really late, someone has just decided to add more features. Or we all decided to postpone the release, to make sure the delivery had the required quality. Then she goes “But the project was supposed to be done last tuesday, right?” and I’m like “Yes, but..” and she cuts me off “So that makes it late.”

A popular term is “definition of done“. Maybe we should also discuss another: “Definition of late”.  The definition of done may be challenging to define, and across an organization it’s very likely to mean different things to different people. One would think that definition of late should be easier to define.

“The project should be done by November 1st. If it isn’t, then it’s late!” Right. But wait. Done? If the project isn’t done until September 1st it’s late. Suddenly avoiding being late relies on something being done – and we just agreed that “done” is a tricky topic. Or is it?

When we postpone the release to production in order to do some additional QA, we’re not really late right? We’re done with the project, we just haven’t released it yet. That must be okay? Or does the lack of quality mean that we tried to deliver too much in too little time?

And if the project owner asks you to add more features, surely that’s no problem. He is the boss, after all. I suggest you explain to him that it will postpone the delivery of all the value created so far. A better solution would be to deliver what we agreed, so that the project outcome will benefit the customer as soon as possible. Then we can add more stuff in the next round.

So, back to being done and late. You see, the thing is that the customer rarely considers a project as done before he can create value from the result. So if your customer can’t create the expected value from whatever he ordered from you, then you are not done.

And if the customer can’t create the aforementioned value by the agreed delivery date, then my friend..

You are late.

@TSigberg