Perhaps all of us have worked on a project that seems to never end. Plans are made. Deadlines assigned. Yet there’s almost always something that someone else still needs to do — or something that gets hung up. Johanna Rothman addresses this very experience in a recent article in Computerworld.
When a project is reportedly 99% complete for three weeks running, what do you do? Replace larger deadlines with “inch pebbles,” or mini-milestones, says Rothman.
Inch-pebbles are one- to two-day tasks that are either done or not done — there’s no “percentage done” with inch-pebbles. When you or members of your project team create inch-pebbles, first break down the larger tasks into smaller pieces, estimate the time each smaller task will take and then verify that you’ve accounted for interdependencies with other people. When I see a six-week task on someone’s list, I ask that person to define all the pieces of that task — to break the task into inch-pebbles.
While I love the binary done-not done approach, the interdependencies intrique me even more. When working with colleagues, have you ever reached a point at which you’ve forgotten who’s supposed to do what next — “Where did we leave this?” How do you manage that?