EPM Principles

The Margin Manifesto

Margin – give yourself some now, you may need it later…

Ask yourself this:

How often has something gone exactly, perfectly to plan without a bump, hiccup, or delay along the way? 

Basically never, right?  So then, why would we ever create a plan without margin?  Why plot a course with no room for error?  Why build a schedule that cannot support even the slightest delay?  The answer is… you shouldn’t.  Anyone who is a position of making plans – Project Managers, Team Leads, Executives, Entrepreneurs, Coaches, and a host of others – should plan for some unknown degree of error, and thus give themselves the margin necessary to recover before disaster strikes.  

Far too often have I witnessed unnecessary disasters and project emergencies due to poor planning and a lack of margin.  If you think it will take 4 weeks to complete Job X, plan for 5.  If you think your prototype build will yield 60% good units, plan for only 30%.  Do you rely on a critical supplier for a specific part?  What happens if they can’t deliver, or are struck by some unexpected disaster.  Instead, try to dual-source key components, that way you are protected if one of your suppliers falls flat on their face.  It happens more often than you think…   

Furthermore, have you thought of what you could do if the thing you are trying to Accomplish / Make / Build does not work?  

  • How could you recover from a major setback? 
  • If no one buys your product, how could you adjust or pivot?  
  • Is there a way to make do with a 50% solution?  
  • What learnings could you get if the project is unsuccessful or your prototype doesn’t work as expected?  

Consider these options, consider how your project, competition, or business could adjust, absorb, or overcome some major obstacle.  Think of these scenarios before they occur and you will be in a much better position to react once they do. 

In summary – with proper planning, including sufficient margin for unexpected delays, errors and issues, and the preemptive consideration for dealing with a major setback, you can lead your team through just about anything.  There is a saying from those in the Military and other survival focused groups… 

Two is One, and One is None  

Thus, plan for margin, have a backup, and consider how you could recover if (when) shit hits the fan. 

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