Schedule, Cost, & Quality: Pick Two

Subject: Schedule, Cost, & Quality: Pick Two
From: "Murrell, Thomas" <TMurrell -at- alldata -dot- net>
To: "'techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com'" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 12 Nov 1999 16:05:33 -0500

Perhaps 20 years ago, a Project Manager I was working for told me that there
are three aspects of any project: Quality, Cost, Schedule. Then he said
something I have always considered profound. He said, "You can have any two
of these aspects on a project at a cost of the third aspect."

That means:

You can produce a quality product within a specified cost target if you are
willing to sacrifice schedule.

You can produce a quality product within a specified schedule if you are
willing to sacrifice cost.

You can produce a product to both cost and schedule targets if you are
willing to sacrifice quality.

Ever since he told me this truth, I have been testing it on the projects I
have encountered. So far, despite Business Management philosophies that say
otherwise, I have yet to find any flaw in my friend's analysis.

How does this relate to Technical Writing? We've had a thread going
recently about the quality of documentation containing grammatical mistakes
and typos and what they say about the dedication of the people compiling
that documentation. My guess would be that the projects in question had to
come in on a schedule and within a cost target. Quality suffered.

Quality suffered in that the "final" product was not reviewed (copy edited)
to catch typos and grammatical mistakes that no spell checker or grammar
checker can catch. The advent of DTP systems seem to have spelled the end
of the editorial review as it used to be practiced. Now writers have to
review their own documents. This review is going to occur at the 11th hour,
when time is tightest. And it is going to be done by the writer. That
editorial review was always a godsend in that it put a fresh set of eyes in
front of a document I, as writer, was frankly getting tired of. I know I
have never caught all of my own mistakes. My experience is that none of us
do. But we are so schedule and cost driven that we are constantly having to
sacrifice quality to meet those other targets. It seems to me that
producing quality documentation is the hardest thing to do these days.

Tom Murrell

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