I was once speaking to a programme manager about a time he had just arrived at a company. The leadership team needed to start a big project which had only been broadly planned, and which already had an immovable and over-optimistic deadline.
A naive project or programme manager might dive straight in, not thinking about the incompatibility of ambitious scope and fixed deadline. An experienced project or programme manager might tell the leadership team it was most likely impossible, and there was little chance of success. But my friend was very experienced and said, “I love timeboxes, they’re really great for focusing attention. Of course, you won’t be able to get everything you want in that timeframe, so let’s think about prioritising features.”
Some time ago I wrote about the benefits of timeboxing, and said the practice can ensure an excellent balance of cost and benefit, because the longer the work goes on the less beneficial are the later features.
But my friend had a different agenda. Apart from just wanting a successful project, he wanted to introduce the leadership team to agile delivery. The project was not just going to be successful, it was going to be successful because they would be forced to prioritise brutally. And that is exactly what happened.
Not only is it a great story, it’s another example of turning a problem into an opportunity.