Wednesday, October 10, 2007

You can't "make it up later"

When you see a schedule challenge, followed by words like "but we'll make it up", you should be seriously suspicious. When the plan isn't working, the idea that things will magically get better in the future simply strains credibility. My inspiration for this post is Boeing's announcement today of a six month slip of their new airliner, the 787. The kicker here is that they've known about the problem for some time. Apparently it's due to a shortage of titanium fasteners. I can totally respect this challenge because it probably wasn't viewed as one of the major risks to the program. (We used to do the same thing with power supplies in our high end computer system design -- we spent a lot more time on the protocols, cache consistency, memory latency.... "easy" stuff like power was overlooked and often where we got in trouble). In fact, Boeing knew enough about this in June that it was written up in the WSJ. Then, they reported they don't need a lot of fasteners, and that they had reduced the production quantities to be able to avoid "over promising and under-delivering". Yet, a mere four months later, that's exactly what is happening. Moreover they say that it won't affect their earnings guidance. Do you believe them?

The good news is, it sounds like they came up with a new plan to try to adjust to the risk - but it wasn't enough. So it wasn't simply that "we'll make it up later", they did change the plan. But they failed to factor reality into the equation. What you'll often see is an abundance of optimism and wishful thinking. "We'll make it up".

No. You very likely won't. What will probably happen at a minimum is that some corners will be cut. Often, as in the Boeing case, the customer pays. It's a great way to lose customers, ironically, by trying to make them happy.


Craig said...

Seriously suspicious?

That's an understatement.

Jeffrey Paul Anderson said...

"Seriously Suspicious" is a style. You could respond with a hard "prove it". In my experience, you'll get better cooperation and a good look at supporting evidence if you simply express concern that it isn't likely to be possible.