Tuesday, December 8, 2020


"At every turn, leaders chose velocity and production over efficiency, thrift, safety, and even prudence"
Ian Toll, Historian

Well, of course, Toll is describing the build-up in the western Pacific in the closing year of WW II. Most, but not all of us, will not have projects in which velocity is prioritized over safety.

Most of us, but not all: In the last 20 years, such has been the case in not a few project instances, in support of wartime emergencies.

Velocity is just a rate

For the math inclined among us, velocity is a rate: something per something else. 

For those with a little calculus training, it's the first derivative of the steady state, expressed as: dx/dt, a small change in the steady state during a small change in time

Velocity is throughput

But for the PMO, velocity is about throughput: Project input -- not especially valuable to the end user -- integrated and transformed into something that is especially valuable.

How fast can you do that? Whatever the answer is, that's "velocity". The rate at which value is produced for the end user. 

Velocity at what cost?

Now, back to Mr. Toll's observation: Apart from safety, it may be that the project office is willing to suffer lots of rework, blind alleys, cost incentives, inefficient process, and inefficient redundancies in order to get some throughput at an high pace.

So be it. But when it comes to safety, we enter a new realm of risk in which the penalties can reach all the way to the criminal. 

But if not criminal, there still can be unimaginable costs: One can only wonder if the Challenger and Columbia would be in a comfortable retirement if only safety were not subordinate to some element of velocity.

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