It’s a classic struggle, up there with good vs. evil and IM vs. grammar, and that is the struggle between scope and resources. It’s a familiar tale to anyone who has ever had to get anything done at any time, even if its only the weekend chore list. I had a professor who said, “Fast, cheap, and good. Pick two.” You likely had a mentor at some time with a similar maxim.
While deadlines (fastness) can move, there is only so much time available, so that leaves scope (goodness) and resources (cheapness) as the two things to manipulate. Rarely do those in charge want to do less. It happens, and when it does, it can be wonderful. Typically, however, stakeholders push for as much as they can get.
Then just add more people, right? Sometimes that isn’t possible and sometimes it’s not desirable. There may be limited resources (cash) that prevent a team from hiring. It may be a tight market with few qualified candidates. Even if the right people are out there, it will take time to find them, bring them on board, ramp them up, and make them productive. That will add an additional drain on the existing team. In the long term, if a larger team is called for, it’s a necessary and proactive sacrifice, but if may not help, and may exacerbate, an existing short fall.
If time is finite and scope is larger than the resources available, what is to be done? Well, the short answer is cut scope. Of course, it’s not that easy.
Today, I’m not going to offer anything new to help solve this problem. I’m still working on that myself. I had been frustrated with how to succinctly describe it. I was talking about scope as the unstoppable force and resources as the immovable object, but it didn’t work that well.
While sitting with a colleague in a conference room talking about this, I said, “Caleb, you have kids right? You’ll get this. Remember when Winnie the Pooh ate too much honey and got stuck in the entrance to Rabbit’s Howse and everyone tried to pull him out?” Caleb nodded.
“We’re pulling the bear,” he said.
I may not have helped anyone solve the problem, but, hopefully, now you at least have an amusing way to describe it.