Project pattern: The last mile

Project pattern: The last mile

You’ve ran the project smoothly, many barriers overcome, risks avoided, the harder deliverables were completed, you can see the finish line, this moment is what I call the ‘last mile’.

Have you ever realized why the last 10% of a project are the hardest to complete?

I’ve spent some time trying to find out some answers, then I remebered this old friend, Mr. Isaac Newton, yes the father of Physics.

In his first law of motion he said:

  • Lex I: Corpus omne perseverare in statu suo quiescendi vel movendi uniformiter in directum, nisi quatenus a viribus impressis cogitur statum illum mutare.

Translating and simplifying:

  • Inertia – A body stays on inertial movement unless a force is imposed over it.

Since a project is a ‘force’ to create a new service/product, we can consider a company as a ‘body’ on inertial movement. In this scenario, the Project Manager role is to impose force over the system to make it work (and than to complete the project).

Consider ‘F’ the project acting on the system, ‘m’ the team efort and ‘a’ the PM influence.

The relation between TIME (x) and EFFORT (y) is shown in the graph below. Every project I’ve ran in my life follows this pattern.

In the beginning the PM initiates the project by himself, so the total amount of effort is low. The team execute the main work between T=3 to 8, causing the major amount of effort. The “last mile” is the effort decrement.

Effort amount over time

But WHY the Last mile is so hard to complete?

It’s usually about Testing, Customer acceptance and Troubleshooting.

Do you allocate the necessary effort to Execute Test Cases and to fix the product? for the several test cycles? Or do you follow the recurrent behavior of believing things will work properly on the very first trial?

What about Customer Acceptance? Do you consider your customer will happily accept the product without asking ANY changes? even the smallest ones?

Do you set buffers for the Troubleshooting phase? I’ve heard this many times from the teams:

_ Hey, I would provide you an ETA if I had one. If I knew how to fix it, it would be already done.

It’s often unpredictable, so we wait… consuming the last buffers until the project execution is finally completed.

The last run

At this moment, the equation is loosing mass (‘m’ variable), we have t>8. The project is on the last run.

The team is getting less and less available, they’re being engaged to brand new projects, with higher priorities, new challenges and eager customers.

The PM has impose greater dedication to influence the (whole) system to have the project completed under these conditions. This is when the PM has to monitor things much more closely. And there is why the last 10% are the hardest part…

Let’s use this pattern in the future to create strategies for the Last Mile.

Eli Rodrigues

Publicado por: Eli Rodrigues

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