Off-topic for sure, but I so hear that… Clients/superiors just loove to invent new sh**...features - instantly rendering ever-so-doable plans obsolete (“scope creep” in project management jargon). And projects are of course situations where everyone involved have their own idea of what the rocks are, how long it’ll take to fill the jar, &c.
In your situation (Paul Watson’s, post “What happens when…”), clients are one thing (“Gimme!”), but when a PM acts like you describe, he/she has lost control.
My $0.02 on project management and the Jar Theory (OT, old news to some, you’re doubly warned):
It seems (esp. in IT/web development) like our project goals increasingly become integral parts of our projects: Only towards the end do we know what the real goals of the project are (or should’ve been).
In my own, limited experience, I’ve found very few methods to gain control over these problems, but here’re some (and my workaholic dumb self *l* spent a couple of hours of vacation-time toying with Jar Theory compliance, thanks a LOT Jeremy ;), well it’s raining so..):
Â¤ Create plans with many short, parallel phases [Core concept of the “Wavefront method”/“Leaning wave”/“Sneda vÃ¥gen”, dev. by Prof. Lars Philipson in “The Seven Week Microprocessor Project” (univ. course at LTH, Sweden, www.lth.se)]
- Jar Theory: Several smaller, more manageable jars together comprising the project (e.g. one for marketing, prototyping, &c.). Focus on putting the rocks into the jars ASAP. As IT/web projects are particularly sensitive to time, tech becoming obsolete &c., it’s good minimizing exposure to this factor.
Â¤ Introduce the “Version 1.1 Concept” to the client: “This is a good feature, it won’t fit our *agreed upon* budget&schedule; (v 1.0), but let’s plan now for this in a follow-up phase/project (v 1.1)”
- New jar (no pun intended), new possibilities.
Â¤ Determine your project’s driving constraints (what you’re measured against): Time, Cost or Quality. They change, watch them ceaselessly and nag about ‘the driver’: “You can have it fast, you can have it cheap, you can have it good. Now pick 2.” [From Ron Black’s book “Complete Idiot’s Guide to Project Management…”, www.ronblack.com]
- Time: to fill the jar; Cost: of people filling the jar, shaping of rocks, purchase of rocks; Quality: shaping the rocks to optimize use of space, decrease likelihood of breaking the jar.
Â¤ Stress the /obvious/ correlation between time and effort (A takes X weeks, A+a takes X+x weeks).
Â¤ If you can’t measure a goal, it’s no good and will lead to scope creep.
- How many rocks we got? This jar is like a balloon, we have no limits!
Â¤ Guard your agreed upon scope with your life (at least fight for it with zeal)
- There’s no Way we can fit your Asteroid into our current jar!
I’ll probably begin using “Jar Theory” when discussing certain things with my team and clients. Imagine talking about hyper-abstract search-engine optimizations to a client saying “Rocks too jagged, they be crashing the Jar, we need more Oracle-masons, U dig?” Powerful stuff!