If you were an adolescent in the 1990s, you couldn’t have missed the Spice Girls. This British girl group, consisting of Scary Spice, Posh Spice, Baby Spice, Sporty Spice, and Ginger Spice, redefined girl power.
Surely, you remember their hit song “Wannabe.” Maybe you also remember their song “2 Become 1.” In a nutshell, they emphasize how great it is when two become one.
Now, I have always had a fascination for Japanese culture, especially Samurai. Growing up, I would have never guessed that Samurai culture inspires and influences entrepreneurs and leaders all over the world.
Books such as The Five Rings, The Art of war, or my favorite, The Hagakure, capture many value management strategies and lessons that can be used today.
One of my favorite quotes in The Hagakure is, “It is bad when one thing becomes two.”
These references always pop up in my mind when looking at how to speed up the delivery of a feature.
So, which one is it? Is it a good thing that two become one, or isn’t it?
It’s time to get the show on the road and explore how fast-tracking and crashing speed up delivery, the risks they carry, and how and when to execute them.
Let’s find out who had it right, the Spice Girls or Yamamoto Tsunetomo.
If you want to speed up delivery, there are multiple roads that lead to Rome.
For instance, you can add resources, eliminate functionality, or accept a lower-quality product.
Another option is fast-tracking. Fast-tracking involves overlapping activities that you would preferably complete in sequence.
Think about overlapping the design of a feature with its delivery, allowing developers to start coding before the design is fully completed.
As you can imagine, fast-tracking carries an increased risk. It’s like building a car engine while the body is still being designed. It increases complexity, with interdependent tasks being carried out at the same time.
The pros and cons of fast-tracking are as follows:
As you can see, fast-tracking can have many benefits, but it also carries risks and should be used carefully. You should weigh the risks and benefits before making a decision.
In the lane next to fast-tracking, there is crashing. Crashing is a technique used to reduce the duration of the critical path by adding more resources.
The critical path is the sequence of your tasks that determine the minimum amount of time needed to complete delivery. By adding more resources or increasing working hours, the tasks can be achieved quicker, shortening the overall duration of delivery.
Take a car, for example. To keep it running smoothly and avoid serious problems down the line, it requires regular maintenance. No one likes standing still next to the highway with a broken down car on the way to their winter holiday destination.
You may need to change your tires, windshield wipers, oil, headlights, and what have you. While these can be done one by one individually, if you have four people doing individual tasks, your waiting time is significantly reduced. This will allow you to be back on the road in no time.
Now, crashing can be expensive because it requires additional resources and may also result in increased costs. Another downside is that adding more resources to a project can result in decreased morale and productivity due to increased supervision and coordination requirements. It can lead to burnout among those involved.
Adding resources isn’t a guarantee of quicker delivery. Therefore, like fast-tracking, use crashing with caution and only when it is necessary to meet a project deadline.
Where, with fast-tracking, you aim to speed up delivery to meet a deadline by overlapping activities, in crashing, you try to achieve the same by adding resource capacity. By adding resources, crashing is more likely to increase costs:
Both are, as Maverick in Top Gun would say, about the need, the need for speed.
Fast-tracking and crashing have many benefits. On the flip side, they also carry risks. Lucky enough, you are not Indiana Jones, so you don’t have to choose.
Still, when you do, do it wisely. Consider alternative methods for reducing duration before implementing these techniques.
As with almost anything in life, it is good practice to make a list. In this case, let’s create a “when to” and “when not to” list, before diving in head-first.
You should consider fast-tracking or crashing when:
You should not consider fast-tracking or crashing when:
OK, so you want to go and fast-track a project that is about to run out of gas?
The following step-by-step process that help you to reach your destination quickly and smoothly:
Start with identifying the critical path. The critical path is the sequence of activities that need to be completed on time to complete the entire initiative. Identify those activities and determine scheduling dependencies and flexibility.
Any delays in the critical path result in delays in the rest of the initiative.
Example: For a construction project, the critical path may include activities such as site preparation, foundation work, and rough framing.
Identify those activities that can potentially be done simultaneously to speed up delivery without negatively impacting it.
Example: For the construction project, potential activities for fast-tracking may include site preparation and foundation work, which can be done simultaneously.
Let me one more time stress the importance to note down all viable alternatives to fast-tracking. Create a pros and cons list and do the same for the most suitable alternatives.
Example: The construction project manager considers the potential impact on the project schedule, cost, quality, and risk when deciding whether to fast-track the site preparation and foundation work activities.
Like John “Hannibal” Smith of The A-Team, I love it when a plan comes together. Develop a fast-tracking plan, visualize the before and after, and communicate the fast-tracking plan with your stakeholders and delivery teams.
Example: The construction project manager develops a detailed plan for how to fast-track the site preparation and foundation work activities, including scheduling, staffing, and resource requirements.
It’s all about execution. Now I get that it is easier said than done. Yet, once you have developed, aligned, and got approval for your fast-tracking plan, it is time to execute it.
Example: The construction project manager schedules the overlapping activities, allocates the necessary resources, and manages the increased complexity of the project. The project team executes the fast-tracking plan.
Now, a plan is a plan and unforeseen events will occur. Like any delivery plan, you need to monitor and manage fast-tracked activities. This will lead to a successful delivery and that well-deserved launch party.
Example: The construction project manager monitors the progress of the fast-tracked activities, and takes corrective action if necessary to ensure that the project stays on track and meets its objectives.
Well, in my view, neither the Spice Girls nor Yamamoto Tsunetomo had it right or wrong.
If your initiative is about to miss a deadline, it can be good that two become one by fast-tracking delivery. You might also consider not letting two become one and crash delivery instead. Both techniques can aid you in delivering timely.
Before using either or both, it is crucial to validate if they are the right way to go, or whether or not alternatives are more suitable. When you make this important decision, follow a structured process, monitor impact, and take corrective action when needed.
Featured image source: IconScout
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