Inversion of Schedule and Process

Programs are held to rigid standards by the very nature of the word. “A planned series of future events and items” accurately portrays the course of action we wish to embark on as a team. When broken down further we can see that there is the insinuation of time by the definition containing future. By using the word future there is an understanding that before it lies a past and present. Tasks and events occurred prior to the future and completion of the program.

The impending break in the two comes when there is a lack of either. Take something as basic as a pit crew at the racetrack. There is a set of conditions that must be met as the racer pulls his automobile into the confines of his mechanics’ graces. The tires must be replaced as well as his gas tank filled along with a multitude of other smaller task items that allow the racer to burn down the track for more laps. Imagine if you will that the race is winding down and there is little time to come into the pit for repairs and maintenance. Our racer is barely holding his lead over the fast approaching second place challenger. We must then accept that when he pulls into the pit there are priorities to what must be completed. Having his windshield cleaned would obviously not take precedence over the filling of his petrol tank. With good reason! What good is a clean windshield if you were doomed to peer through it stationary?

Here lies the fundamental issue we must tackle as we scream towards the finish line. There is an allocated amount of space and time. These are both forces in constant attack on the team. Take the diagram below:

Here we can see that there is a funnel, an amount of space that is allocated as we progress towards the completion of a task. In the same fashion as a rifle, only one bullet can be in the chamber at a time. Much the same is our pit crew as they tirelessly work on racer’s car. If the entire space surrounding the car is taken up currently by mechanics, adding a mechanic to the mix will do little to accelerate the process. No, at the end of the day there is simply an allocation of space you are given.

Space and time formed the basis of Einstein’s greatest theory. While the terminology and definitions of the words vary greatly from the position I am wishing to describe, space and time are both inverse to program management.  Rather than space and time describing light and forces of the universe, they relay to us an understanding of limited space and shortened time.

The take away from this theory is that at some threshold, bodies provide you little (and often hinder) schedule acceleration. Also process is a rigid guideline that must flex in the face of adverse timing. Our pit crew would be doomed to failure if they lacked the capability to prioritize fuel over windshields or tires over rearview mirror replacement. We can take the above paragraphs and distill them into a set of rules to manage with:

  1. Schedule and Process are directly attached. Process requires extended schedules and lack of schedule requires shortened process
  2. There is only so much space a team can exist in at once. More bodies unable to fill space do little to assist and get in the way of the team already in place
  3. Acceleration of schedule can only occur if the bodies currently filing the space are replaced with more efficient bodies
  4. Programmatic execution is more than a capability description, it is a time description

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