When I was a manager, I regularly navigated aggressively-scheduled projects, and a statistically significant proportion of these were completed within the timeline. All of these projects had some promise, and some generated substantial revenue for the company. Some were ill-considered and poorly designed, and these failed. Some had great potential but the company was naive or uncommitted, and those were allowed to die quietly. Such is the nature of business.
Having experienced the lifecycle of both successful and unsuccessful products, I am developing the skill to recognize a Death March in advance. I now have a large, visible project contributing to a product. It is a joint effort between two groups, and the requirements are vague. The impact of the changes that we do know about are very significant and put our daily bread-and-butter processes at high risk. I have attended numerous design meetings, and after each session my natural optimism leads me to think We finally landed! only to soon realize disappointment when the principle Business Analyst introduces a ‘small change’ which expands the scope, adds risk, and threatens the delivery date. In addition, the business concepts around the product are shapeless and, coupled with the business’ traditional unwillingness to change its customer service policies and procedures, do not appear to present an attractive opportunity for a sustainable revenue stream.
Barely three weeks into this project, I have seen the monster and it is us. My main concern now is to ensure that my teams and I come through this with some dignity, so I am trying to oversee the core objects to build in some trap doors we can activate to allow the business to escape from a predicament it is too impulsively childish to prevent.