31 January 2007

Olin & Finishing Early

When I was at Olin College last week, I talked about the FIST (Fast, Inexpensive, Simple, Tiny) model I developed a while back. We spent most of the time talking about the Simplicity Cycle (the S in FIST), but we also spent a fair amount of time talking about slashing development timelines (the F part).

Specifically, I explained Parkinson's Law (Work expands to fill the time allotted) and Ward's Correllary (Work is compressible). I showed diagrams and survey results which claimed that most DoD projects could actually be done in half the time. Then I asked a question:

"Could you finish your SCOPE project early if you had to?" (SCOPE is a year-long engineering project for seniors). There was some slightly uncomfortable-sounding laughter, and lots of nodding heads. The consensus was "Yes, we could finish early."

One brave student pointed out that even if they finished early, they'd probably just be given more work to do, to fill in the rest of their time. For a moment, the room was gripped by two false beliefs 1) They need permission to finish early and 2) They need to tell the professor if they finish early.

So I asked a few more questions "Could you finish your project a month early if it meant you could do what ever you want with that month? What if you finished early and just didn't tell anyone?" That got a lot of applause, and a big nod from Prof Barrett, the director of the SCOPE program. I pointed out that nobody could stop them from finishing a month ahead of schedule, then goofing off.

I wonder if any of them will do it...

No comments: