September 20, 2011
Eight months into the project and we still couldn’t ship.
The deliverables had changed twice and in significant ways. The client kept us from doing work the first two months until the first change occurred and then we had to throw out all the work we did in the next three months when the second change occurred. Then the client had us wait. Another change was coming.
The contract was coming to a close and it was time to talk about renewing.
I didn’t see the point. I don’t want to just take your money. I want to help you ship something. I want to help you be successful. I want you to be happy with our progress.
The client just wanted to renew and keep things the way they were. The client was perfectly happy with the way things had gone.
I pushed back.
Well, on second thought they really had wanted to ship something.
I pushed a little more.
Well, actually, things can’t go on the way they’ve been going.
I had a suggestion. I looked at what had held us up and realized there was another strategy that just might work.
The client was skeptical. They were more comfortable with leaving things the way they were. You know, the way that hadn’t worked. The way that, once they thought about it, they weren’t happy at all with. But it was a process they were comfortable with. Much better to stick with something that definitely isn’t working than to risk something that might not work.
The issue was sunk costs. We’ve both spent time and money working in this particular way. We all like working with each other. Shouldn’t we keep things the way they are.
You shouldn’t change for change’s sake. Also, and this is the harder one, sometimes you just haven’t stayed the course long enough. You sometimes need to keep doing what you are doing to reap the benefits. But other times, if you keep doing what you’re doing you’ll keep getting what you’re getting.
It can be very hard to distinguish these last two situations but that’s where the opportunities are.