Recent headlines in Germany about airlines and passengers are making the entire world nervous. The opening of the Berlin airport has been postponed indefinitely. The opening scheduled for the 3rd of June is now history. Nobody can say when the Willy Brandt Airport will be ready for travelers. Some talk of a six week postponement. But work on the prestigious showplace has just not been completed. Germany is more or less shocked. One of the questions being asked to the press is “Why didn’t anyone say it was going to take longer?” Because 3 weeks before the opening, they must have known that this project was not going to be completed…
So the present situation – at least how we understand the flood of information we are being bombarded with. But let’s be honest, don’t we do the same in our professional life? Have projects that just never get completed? Guidelines that are supposed to represent the current status of the project, but are then undermined when the project nears its conclusion?
In many companies project deadlines are missed and must be postponed. Actually it probably happens more often than not that deadlines are not kept. So far that has not been all bad, because we are humans and can not look into the future. That is the same for the construction of the Willy-Brandt Airport. It is hard to comprehend a project of this scale – you always forget something… In order to be able to quickly react to changes and to recognize as early as possible that a project will not be completed, we use Scrum. Iterative and manageable times to plan more exactly. I also would not like to go out on a limb and say: Berlin should have used Scrum. But it is an exciting fantasy… A first approach with the Passenger Test trial has already taken place.
I would like to argue for openness. With Scrum we try to communicate openly. If it takes longer we can determine when the project will be completed (the longer a project takes, the more specific we can be). I will not deny that sometimes this is difficult in reality. It is understandable why the team in Berlin that guided the construction of the airport and failed to meet the deadlines did not admit the uncomfortable truth until three weeks before the opening. The situation is annoying and the reaction of the media and the public is difficult. We should cut them some slack, acknowledge our own failings and try to improve in the future. If we openly communicate that we can not do something, this has nothing to do with failure. It means that we cannot look into the future in more detail. That there will be consequences for air travel is annoying and costly. Of course, we do not all fail at building an airport. But delays and difficulties do occur. It should not happen, but it can happen – to all of us in varying orders of magnitude.