“If we couldn’t show up on time, looking right and acting right, we weren’t going to be able to do anything else.”
— Bo Schembechler

The project’s leader looked very stressed. I had just asked a question that reveals a great deal about anyone’s plan. The team had presented a plan for delivering to a major client. The delivery the leader was promising was three months from that day.

As a consultant to the organization, I took her aside and asked, “Is it possible your team could deliver two weeks earlier?”

She immediately responded, “No, no, no that is not possible.”

I followed up with the obvious next question.  “Is it possible you will be 1 week late?”

Her answer was even more nervous.  “No. It will be delivered 3 months from today.”

Let’s say you are planning to attend your favorite band’s concert.  The doors will close and let no one else in at 8:00 PM. Do you plan to get to the venue at 7:59 PM?

This project leader’s answer was based on fear. She felt she was trapped by immovable forces.

She believed that she could not get additional resources.

She believed that the content was fixed.

She believed that the schedule was set in stone.

She believed that if she did not deliver three months from today she would be fired. Or perhaps even worse, she would have to continue to work significant overtime under great pressure with no relief in sight.

We worked together. I prepared management for revisions to the plan. The leader presented a new plan where it was possible to deliver early and extremely likely to finish on time. The commitments made with a sound plan were met successfully and resulted in customer delight.

I have one more question that is also very useful.  Are there more benefits to showing up late with broken things or showing up early with the right stuff?

Yours in the calm pursuit of excellence,


Alan Willett

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