I was brought in by the CIO of a large organization to help his team assess the readiness of his newly developed system for implementation. I expected to see the usual smattering of defects found during the user acceptance test, but was prepared to recommend a “go” for implementation. However, in my assessment I was appalled to find several hundred defects, many of which negatively affected the accuracy of the system results. In my opinion, implementing the system in its current condition would have landed the organization on the front page of the newspaper, above the fold.
The CIO accepted my assessment and discussed my findings with the contracting firm’s Project Manager. He requested that the contractor repair the significant defects, specifically those affecting the accuracy of the system, before he would sign off on system acceptance and release payment for the previous stage of the project.
I was astounded at what happened next. The Project Manager aggressively informed the CIO of how poorly his organization had performed during the requirements gathering, during the design, and during the user acceptance test phases of the project. At one point she stated that had his user acceptance test team tested more aggressively, they would have found these defects earlier, and they could have been fixed earlier. In her estimation, her team had no capacity to fix this number of defects and implement on time. The CIO would just have to accept the system as is and allow her team to fix the defects as they were discovered in production. Alternatively, the CIO’s organization would bear the costs of the system delay.
If you are not familiar with fixed fee contracting, here’s what the project manager was in effect saying, “I know there are problems with the system, but I’m not going to be held responsible. It’s going to take three months to fix those defects, and our fixed bid won’t allow for that much schedule slippage. More importantly, my career won’t recover from that much slippage.”
If you want to see me visibly irritated, put me in a room where the Project Manager is explaining to the client how the client’s decision will affect her (the Project Manager). What she means is how it will affect her project schedule, her days off, or her bottom line. Notice that not once did she empathize with the client’s situation or with what his organization would have to deal with if a substandard system was delivered to them. Excuse me, but who works for whom?!
What is even more frustrating is that the decision being asked of the client was the direct result of poor performance on the part of her delivery team. And now she had the gall to put it all back onto the client – that that the client would bear the cost of any delay! Yes, there are situations where a client request is a scope change; and in those situations it’s fair for the Project Manager to alert the client to schedule changes or additional cost. But to come into the discussion, as this Project Manager did, order pad in hand, leading with the assumption that the client was responsible, is not project management. It’s abdication of responsibility at the highest level.
I ask again: who works for whom?! Project managers, wake up! It’s not about you at all.
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