Wednesday, December 9, 2015

From "Good Enough" to "More Than Enough"

The “more than enough” components of successful projects are at the heart of Tom Peters’ philosophy of project management. Author of The Project 50, Peters constantly strives to transform every project into a project that matters – a “wow project”: “Life is too short for non-wow projects.… ‘Sameness’ in products and services spouts from companies where most work, most projects end up being ‘mediocre successes.’”1

The project manager of the Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE) project established priorities and clearly differentiated between a “good enough” treatment, which was applied to the majority of activities (see our recent blog, The Doctrine of Enough), and a “more than enough” treatment, which was reserved for the minority of activities. Following is one example of how the “more than enough” treatment was employed by Don Margolies. At a late stage in the project, after testing was completed, the scientists wanted all instruments to come off for calibration. Don considered it, and despite strong opposition from upper management, he gave it the green light.  

… It was the first time on any NASA project that I know of when all the instruments on an observatory came off for rework or calibration after the full range of environmental tests, and then were reintegrated at the launch center without the benefit of an observatory environmental retest.… My management… didn’t mince words. “Don, you are crazy,” they told me. 
Don decided, however, that because they had religiously adhered to the “good enough” approach, the project was ahead of schedule and under budget, and the team was now in a position to explore a “more than enough” avenue: “We were in a position to ask:  What can we do to make the science better?”

Indeed, the ACE results, as evident from the ACE home page of the California Institute of Technology, were nothing short of a big WOW: “ACE has been at the L1 point for over 14 years, and the spacecraft and instruments are still working very well… As of October 2010, 635 peer reviewed papers have been published by ACE science team members… Over 140 Science News items have been released by the ACE Science Center… On January 21, 1998, NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) and the ACE project opened up the ACE Real Time Solar Wind monitoring capability to the public. The service provides 24-hour coverage of the solar wind parameters and solar energetic particle intensity. ACE’s position a million miles upstream of earth gives as much as an hour’s warning of CMEs (coronal mass ejection) that can cause geomagnetic storms here on earth.”3

Only if one knows what “enough” is, can one be free to do “more than enough,” and only then is one able to produce a “wow project.”  

  1. T. Peters. 1999. The Project 50 (Reinventing Work): Fifty Ways to Transform Every “Task” into a Project That Matters! New York, NY: Alfred Knopf, 97-100.
  2. “Test What You Fly?,” Don Margolies, Goddard Space Flight Center NASA, 2005. In A. Laufer, T. Post, and E.J. Hoffman, Shared Voyage: Learning and Unlearning from Remarkable Projects, 69-72. Washington, DC: The NASA History Series.
  3. Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE).  Last update: January, 2012, last accessed October 19, 2015.