Legal Business

What every lawyer needs to know about project management, Part 4 of 5

If we lived in a perfect world with unlimited resources, no one would need project managers. But here on Earth, resources are limited and managers are constantly forced to make difficult choices.  For example, when computer programmers develop a new product, no matter how good the product may be, someone can always think of a way to make it even better.  But each new feature requires time and money.  If software companies intend to stay in business, someone must decide which changes are worth making and which are not.  That's why experts talk about the "project management triangle": every project is constrained by scope, schedule, and budget.  If you change one, the others change too.

As project managers often put it, "Better is the enemy of good enough."  The phrase can be traced back to Voltaire, and is not an endorsement of mediocrity.  It is an endorsement of pragmatism, of analyzing the cost of each action in advance, and proceeding only if that cost can be justified by its return. 

It is human nature to always seek a better solution and for each of us to add our own personal stamp.  It is the project manager's job to keep human nature in check and thus assure that projects are completed on time and within budget. As a Deputy Division Chief at NASA put it in an article about the space program:

In our zeal to solve problems in new and innovative ways, project managers must be prudent not to allow requirements creep or design solutions to bankrupt the whole project.

Many lawyers have spent their entire careers with little motivation to deliver within budget.  The billable hour has implied that the more thorough lawyers were (and the longer things took), the more money they made.

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