Schlagwort-Archive: Project

The adequate quantity – the phantom of planning

Imagine somebody is planning a trip from Hannover to Madrid and is trying to fill his VW Golf with 100 liters gasoline. Without a petrol canister more than 50 liters would leak immediately on the floor of the filling station, since the tank can not absorb this quantity. Even if this sounds unreal, this craziness happens every day in all companies. The managers demand results from the employees, which go far beyond realistic expectations. External support gets purchased, although there is not sufficient internal capacity to support the measures. Objectives are simply not aligned with the available capabilities. In the absence of meaningful parameters, practical experiences and realistic conditions, the adequate quantity spooks through the entire planning process like a phantom.

This phantom generates at least one of the following three effects.

  • If more does not offer anything more
    Goodwill is not enough, if one reaches the limits of the capacity. The furnishing with the necessary resources does not lead to any advantages, if the workload can no longer be stemmed by the existing workforce. If external support is planned in areas, where collaboration with internal people is required, but they do not have time, then it is as if the tank is full and still being filled. A lack of an overview of the workload, incorrect estimates of the required person days and ignoring the basic conditions of an initiative lead to wasting the tight budget. In this case more does not offer anything more.
  • If too little offers nothing at all
    The smarter approach seems to be the use of less than necessary from the outset. This is the case when sufficient capacities are available internally, but in the procurement of external support money is spared. The task can not be controlled with the available internal know-how. Nevertheless, insufficient support is provided – perhaps in the hope that one gets more than one pays. This is as if you want to drive far away, but the tank is not filled the way that one can drive with an economical driving style so that there would be at least a chance to arrive. Without having any idea of the required quantity, with the hope that the outcomes will be produced by themselves and with distrust of the external service providers, this prevents the desired results. In this case, too little is not only correspondingly less, but it leads to a total failure of the task.
  • When the right amount draws the line
    The appropriate approach is based on clear objectives, anticipatory costs and the transfer of estimates to existing resources. Not only the available times of the individual employees are taken into account, but also their personal knowledge and experience as well as an estimation of the set-up times. In addition, the expenses of the external parties must be assessed and assigned to the individual tasks. In sum, one comes to an estimate, which must be mercilessly integrated into the timeframe. Trivialization, gossip, or veiling in order to whitewash the planning may create the impression that the planning is good. Practically, it is only a matter of time before the hidden difficulties arise and the initiative fails. Two thirds of the projects fail due to poor planning. Ambitious targets, cost pressure and the lack of employees put the planners under pressure. With all the effort, however, there is nothing to be done but to fit into the situation, to adjust the objectives to the available capacities and financial resources. In the end, the right amount determines the limit of the achievable.

Bottom line: For almost all, it is comprehensible that one can drive less far, the less one puts gas into the tank. However, this seems not to apply to the planning of projects. On the one hand, resources are wasted, because they do not fit into the internal realization possibilities. On the other hand, means are greedily spared, in the hope of reaching far enough – maybe the initiative fails anyway and one can make this failure more cost-efficient. The right amount can not perform magic, but make the goals reachable. As long as a corresponding feel for the adequate quantity is missing, all have to look for the phantom of the adequate quantity.

The mountain – the ideal metaphor for a goal

When you avoid abstract goals, like a better quality, an increased productivity and an acceleration of processes, the probability of tangible goals goes up. The effective goal lives on the SMART description as well as on conceptions that the target group derive from it:

  • Lower the failure of mechanical parts from ten per thousand to three per thousand;
  • 5% reduction of costs per 1000 € revenue;
  • Feedback after customer contact in less than 24 hours.

Additionally, the common understanding of a goal helps during the target pursuit. The mountain is hereby the ideal metaphor for the goal.


If we consider a high mountain, then we can transfer to goals similar attributes and feature that we encounter.

  • Interim goals
    The higher the mountain, the more interim goals, i.e. milestones, are required, in order to reach the actual target. Edmund Hillary started 1953 in the base camp, used eight camps on the way to the summit on 8848 m. The milestones in large projects are also important interim steps on the way to the actual goal.
  • Stages
    In the case of Hillary the stages varied according to the respective degree of difficulty. The individual phases should be planned in such a way that they can be achieved with normal forces. Too large stages wear out the involved ones and endanger the result. Activities that will take more than a year are particularly challenging, since the basic conditions will change in the meantime.
  • Effort
    Hillary conquered 3,500 m in altitude within six weeks. Further difficulties evolved with increasing height, like e.g. less and less oxygen. The necessary efforts went beyond normal reserves. Patience and perseverance also have to be ensured with business goals. Extensive objectives, which lead to large changes, need special competencies, in order to meet the requirements of a megaproject.
  • Risk
    On the Mount Everest one reaches life-threatening realms. For this reason the mountain climbers prepare for it. In case of noble goals that have large effects on many people, often this consciousness of danger does not exist. Such projects are just as naive started as the walk on German low mountain ranges. Therefore the responsible persons of a project should always have special attention to the risks that can occur during the realization of particularly long projects.
  • Gigantic view
    There is no better panorama than from the highest mountain on earth. Despite the dangerous environment, you should take the time to enjoy and/or celebrate the view. The same applies accordingly to project success. As soon as the targets of the project are reached, it needs appropriate celebrations and publications, which commemorate the results and create pride for the participants.
  • Concrete endpoint
    The summit of the Mt. Everest is the highest point on earth. As soon as you exceed it, the way goes downhill. Interestingly enough the involved ones of a project seldom know, when this point is reached and/or is exceeded. As a consequence projects only find an end with difficulties. The best smartification possible is the only chance to recognize the goal. The orderly conclusion is just as important as the descent from a mountain.
  • After the summit attempt the next mountain
    Even if Edmund Hillary defeated the highest mountain, he found further goals in the Himalaya and in addition, at the South Pole, where he arrived as only the third, after Amundsen and Scott. After the project is before the project. As soon as a project is finished, no matter how large or small it was, there is immediately the question about the next challenge. The routine of many projects makes a project manager better.

Bottom line: The mountain as metaphor offers an abundance of analogies to the project members that help coping the obstacles. I am sure that you find several additional examples. And as always: the highest mountain is only a mountain.