July 2, 2018

Hatching a Catastrophe

  —A look at other essays by Frederick P. Brooks and the importance of hustle.

In The Mythical Man-Month (Worth Reading Again), I describe the value of re-reading this classic essay. In this article, I recommend looking at another essay “Hatching a Catastrophe”.

In this essay, Brooks’ calls out how a big catasrophe is, in some ways, easier to handle because there is a clear motivation for change and action. It’s the little slips of a day or half-day that are harder to manage because they creep up on you. He makes reccomendations to counter these slips and includes valuable observations. Importantly, he describes what he refers to as hustle.

Hustle embodies a sense of urgency in completing the current task. Completing early creates a positive schedule buffer that insulates against the inevitable setbacks that arise. It’s a form of insurance.

His advice for achieving hustle? One must become excited about a one-day slip.

Hustle and urgency are closely connected. Urgency is an important component of focus. Focus improves execution. If you become excited about a one-day slip you have an opportunity to create a sense of urgency for your project. Urgency increases the odds of recovery and may help you recover lost time and keep your insurance (schedule buffer).

His advice for the manager is excellent: use separate meetings to collect status and action problems. Publish both estimated and scheduled dates. Invest in a “Plans and Controls” team whose purpose is to monitor and communcate project plans.

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