Lightening the delivery balloon

I’d love to say all the projects I’ve ever worked on have run perfectly smoothly, but that would be a lie. There are plenty of times I’ve been involved with a project where a deadline is looming, and as we get closer and closer we have to ask harder and harder questions about what to cut. Can we afford to pass on some security features? Is it too much of a distraction to correct the typos? Should we continue to hunt down that intermittent bug on the subscription page…?

When this happens I have a picture in my head that looks something like this…

I imagine us all in the basket of a hot air balloon, floating over the sea towards our landing spot safely on top of the cliffs. But our balloon is losing height. We’re going to crash into the sea, or into the side of the cliff, unless we do something—fast. We start throwing things over the side to give ourselves that much-needed lift to get us over the cliff edge and into the safety zone. Out goes the picnic hamper, out goes the radio… have we got enough height yet, or do we need to throw out the first aid kit, too?

This prioritisation is not pleasant, but it’s often what gives a team the last minute boost it needs. That, and, unfortunately, a few late nights, sometimes.

It’s at times like these that I look back at the project’s earlier days and wonder if we could have avoided much of this. Maybe if we had been a bit harder with our prioritisation then we wouldn’t be having to do this now. Perhaps we should prioritise more often as if the deadline is just a few days away.