to any mention of schedule pressure, this project manager and I agreed that the team needed to hear her stress quality goals a hundred times for every time she mentioned a deadline. Most teams are so attuned to schedule pressure that the mere mention of it can often be more powerful than ninety-nine mentions of quality pressure.
My third and final case shows the importance of over-communicating non-schedule goals. I spent the first day of working with this team asking why team members were initiating a project to rewrite an existing core business application. I started with the VP of the department who made it very clear that the application was being rewritten because the existing application was no longer maintainable. It had lived a long and decent life but could not be extended any further.
As I met others on the team that day--programmers, testers, and managers--they expressed different reasons for rewriting the system. They said they were rewriting the application to make it perform better, to make it more reliable, to give it a fancier user interface, and to make it easier to use.
The project had been given a fairly arbitrary deadline six months into the future because that would coincide with the release of a related product. The date was considered aggressive but achievable. I asked the team, "What if you miss the deadline by a month but create an application that is easy to maintain?" All team members thought this would be a failure--meaning, the deadline was critical.
I asked the VP project sponsor the same question, and he considered the alternative outcome to be just as successful. His major criteria for the success of the project was that the application be easily maintainable. But because the project had been given a target release date, that release date became the primary focus. This team stood mistakenly primed to sacrifice achieving the project's primary goal in order to be done on time.
If you are a manager or are in a position of authority, be very aware of the messages you send a team. If you want a team to focus on something other than the schedule, you'll need to stress that attribute many times--more often than you stress the schedule. If you are a team member, listen carefully to find out what is truly critical to the project sponsor. A little schedule pressure goes a long way.