And Another Thing…
So, I said to Roscoe, this whole train wreck boiled down to not honoring commitments? Wasn't that a little simplistic?
"You can look at this from lots of different directions, but I always come up with the same answer," said Roscoe.
"There are these guys who draw up these PERT charts and Gantt charts and try to plan everything down to a gnat's eyelash. Now we may or may not agree that this is a worthwhile exercise, and intelligent people can have differences of opinion on the subject. One thing I know for sure: It is hard to get all the dependencies right, and there will always be new tasks introduced midstream that you didn't plan on.
"Now, these charts look like spider webs to me. If I abstract out the detail, one way to think about this is that the result is dependent on the integrity of the web. Call it a network if you want to. For me, it is a complicated set of links in a very complicated n-dimensional chain."
I was trying to figure out where Roscoe was going with this. I knew he wasn't going to give me a treatise on graph theory. But rather than interject, I bided my time.
"Now, I can try to figure out what will happen to my schedule if one link screws up. That is, if that link is on the critical path, I know for sure it will make the whole project late. If the link is not on the critical path, it may or may not make us late, depending on how late that particular activity is.
"But we all know that projects usually get late not because of one catastrophic failureone link seriously brokenbut because many, many links are a little lateor should we say, a little broken. So my idea is that the integrity of the schedule is an accumulation of the integrity of each and every one of the links.
"And what," finished Roscoe triumphantly, "is each link other than a commitment? My guess is that most projects get into trouble because of the accumulation of all the commitments that aren't delivered. That's one reason why most project managers never know why they failed. It wasn't one big screw-up; it was just lots and lots of little things that piled up. It's insidious."