07 January 2010

Rogue Projects Are Fast

I like projects that move along quickly.

That is, when I’m part of a team developing a new system, I like it better when the timeline between initiation and delivery is measured in months rather than years or decades. And when I use the word “like,” I am expressing a preference that is simultaneously personal (based on my taste & style) and professional (based on research & data). I like it because it appeals to me, not only in a visceral sense but also because it makes intellectual & experiential sense and leads to desirable outcomes. I don't see any conflict between my personal and professional preferences –I just want to make it clear this is more than a personal preference.

Among other benefits, speed means you belong to the project and the project belongs to you. If it’s got a long timeline, you’re inevitably in the muddled middle of someone else’s vision, someone else’s headache. On a long, slow project, you are unlikely to see either the start or the finish. If you do happen to see one end, the other end is even more distant. The belongingness of a fast project has a positive impact on quality and satisfaction.

Yes, it’s possible to feel ownership in the middle of a long project that was begun by someone else and will be finished by someone else… but it’s unlikely. It's not the default position.

There are many other benefits to short timelines. Speed reduces instability, reduces costs, encourages simplification, and helps ensure operational relevance. But the fact that speed fosters ownership and commitment is a particularly interesting benefit... and it's a benefit I really like.

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