Posted on December 30th, 2011 in - Vicki Wrona, Best Practices, Constraints, Management, Schedule | No Comments »
By Vicki Wrona, PMP
I was working with a group of people recently and one of them said, “It’s better to have 80% on time than 100% too late.” I love that statement. Let’s explore that today.
A life lesson in college
When I was in college, I had an accounting professor who gave tests that were almost impossible to finish in the time allotted. His attitude was that he would rather see your work and thought process on all questions for partial credit than have a fully correct and complete answer on some questions. Those students who worked through a portion of all questions scored higher than those who completed some of the questions fully. In his view, it is better to provide 80% of most things than 100% of some things.
This is a lesson in life. We rarely have the luxury of finishing our to-do lists, or even the necessary and critical portion of our to-do lists. We certainly don’t get to those tasks designated for “when I have some free time”. It is a reality that we often must complete as much as we can as best we can in order to survive.
Relating this to our projects, our work and our lives
Isn’t it better for our customers to roll out a product or service that fits 80% of their wish list rather than roll out nothing (in an effort to be perfect) and serve 0% of the need? We have the option to improve the 80% to 100%, but often we leave that product at 80% either because of constraints or because it turns out that the 80% was good enough. Either way, it’s still better than 0%.
How many bright ideas are still just that – ideas? Isn’t it better to provide something rather than nothing?
I realize there are exceptions to this statement and that in some cases, like hospital or public safety, 80% won’t do. But even in those settings, there are places where improvements make a difference, even when they are not perfect.
Note: This doesn’t mean that sloppy or incomplete work is good enough. I realize there are people who consistently perform at levels not quite good enough. In their haste to do more, they are really performing at closer to 40%-60%, not the 80% I am referring to. Fifty percent delivery only creates more rework for them and for those they work with. That is not what I am talking about here at all.
What do you think? Is it better to provide 80% of most than 100% of some? How about 80% on time rather than 100% late?