Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Are we building a farm or a zoo?

At the weekend my daughters (4 and 3) and I played with our trunk of Lego for an hour or so.

I happily followed their instructions – sometimes exacting, sometimes a little vague – and inwardly laughed when one said to the other, “Oh, are we building a zoo?  I thought we were building a farm.”

In fairness, the horse and chickens had appeared perfectly at home with the giraffe and elephant but, for my eldest, it just looked wrong and needed fixing.  Happily, on this occasion at least, the girls were able to settle their differences relatively peacefully. 

It’s not always like that, funnily enough.

This conversation reminded me of the numerous post-project lesson capture meetings I have run for clients and, in particular, the frequency with which ‘clarity of scope’ comes up as being at the heart of numerous over-runs and over-spends.

Frequent visitors to this blog will recall an earlier examination of differing interpretations of scope by clients and contractors here.

All too often, a client will presume that its contractor’s understanding of what it wants is the same as its own.  Just as all too often a contractor will rush to produce a proposal without ensuring that its assumptions are valid.  In both cases, time is considered a luxury and all involved, excited and enthused, just want to get on with ‘doing something’ and getting paid for it.

‘More haste, less speed’ is a well-worn phrase for a reason.  One project I worked on had an initial budget of $1bn.  The final spend was over $1.7bn.  Perhaps a bit more time discussing up-front might be an idea?

Consulting lessons from past projects at the bidding and planning stages can help the arrogant, ignorant and na├»ve from promising too much for too little.  Bringing people in from past projects as internal consultants, perhaps through Peer Assists, is also a good idea.

Hopefully, my daughters will come to learn that sitting down together and discussing what they want to do is time well spent.  Hopefully, companies with big projects to run will do so as well.