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Chapter 9. Scoping a Project > What, Me Worry?

What, Me Worry?

Kent has a client that based its business plan on a set of big stories much like the ones above (different topic, naturally, since space travel seemed a bit dicey, even to venture capitalists). When the team began implementing the stories, they measured their progress at about 40 percent of the original plan.

Story Time

Don Wells sent us this story:

This reminds me of some time I spent at General Dynamics. We were trying to create a vehicle that could drive itself from one place to another all over Europe with no human intervention whatsoever. Many universities were also working on exactly that same problem.

Our manager came to my team and gave us a little pep talk and assigned us a date one year away for having a vehicle drive itself from city to city at 10 miles per hour. I told the manager that the very best minds in the world had already been working on this same problem for years at institutions like MIT, Carnegie-Mellon, and Stanford and they were having serious troubling getting it to work. This manager, who about a year later was promoted to director, looked me straight in the eyes without flinching and said: "I know it's going to be a challenge, but if anyone can do it you can." The result was that everyone found something else to work on most of the time. Very little work was done on the vehicle. The contract went to our competitors who had not solved the problem either, but did get their vehicle to follow a painted line on black asphalt around a parking lot at 1 mile per hour.

We could have done that and perhaps more, but that was not what was asked of us. A pep talk is no substitute for a plan that everyone believes in.


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