This blog post is an 11th hour delivery. I set a goal for today, I aligned my resources to make it happen, and balanced competing priorities in a way that landed this post late in the day. Of course, when this post was competing against a vacation day with my family, I am happy with the outcome of my prioritization exercise.
However, I had a choice that was fully my own. In business, the choice is often made long before the delivery, and in many cases by those who are not responsible for executing the 11th hour delivery. If you work in any field that includes timelines, I'll bet that you have experienced the thrill, stress, exhaustion or crushing defeat of the 11th hour delivery. In those moments, you may have asked this age-old question:
Was it worth it?
No matter what the solution, service or product, there is an invariable set of questions that lead to the answer:
In most cases, there are many factors that lead to the need for an 11th hour delivery. If your project were a boulder rolling down a hill, an initial push must have put it into motion. However, other factors led to its trajectory, such as bumps, mud, or rocks along the way. If you think of the push being a strategic decision and the slope of the hill representing the plan, the bumps, mud and rocks represent unknown barriers and issues that may not have been taken into account when the boulder was pushed. Many project planning methodologies have been developed to address such unknowns, but no matter the methodology, businesses still struggle with the 11th hour delivery. Of course, that makes the why question that much more compelling, especially from the strategic angle. And, as you will find out, its connection to the last question in this post.
At what cost?
While financial costs will likely be front of mind, other costs must also be taken into account. For instance, what did not get done because of this delivery? How did it impact the health and well-being of team members? Did it require accumulating more technical debt (a topic I'll address in a future post)? And, how did it impact the quality of your delivered service or product? The potential costs will vary not only with the product or service you're providing, but also with your values and those of your organization.
At what benefit?
While in some instances the answer to this question may mirror the answer to the question of why, in many cases it will not. This question goes beyond the value of the delivery itself, and ventures into the additional dimension of asking if the 11th hour timing itself added benefit. For instance, if the delivery occurred a week later, how would that impact its benefit? There are certainly instances where the benefit would be diminished if the delivery was not complete by the 11th hour. However, the difference in benefit is an important factor to consider when imminent delivery is not critical.
Now that you have had a chance to think about these questions, I will ask you to revisit each of them by asking this additional question:
It's important to note that this is not about assigning blame. Instead, it is to provide context around the complexity of the issue. Human nature will have us align to the perspective closest to us, and in the process can lead us to believe that the cost or benefit to those with different positions are right or wrong, worth it or not. So, when the initial decision or commitment was made that led to the need for an 11th hour delivery, where these types of questions asked? And, if they were not asked, what if they had been?
We will revisit the 'why' question one last time. Some time-critical deliveries do not come with much of a choice. For instance, physicians will not think twice about the need for a life-saving procedure in a life or death situation, nor should they. However, the reality is that most decisions are not life or death. For those instances, especially when the collective costs across all stakeholders diminish the value provided by the delivery, we must ask one final and important question:
What will you do to prevent this from happening again?
I have much more to share, but for now, I will prioritize sleep.
Rebecca Scott is the founder of Vivid Spring Solutions. She is a Certified Business Analysis professional with over 16 years of experience driving projects and providing key insights that lead to creative solutions. She is also a public speaker and mother of 4.
The views stated here are solely the author’s and do not represent those of any client or employer.