Value for money

Another ice-breaker I sometimes use works like this …

I put a picture of Apollo 11 on the screen and say: “When NASA set up the Apollo programme they realised that normal ballpoint pens do not work upside down or in zero gravity. So they set up a project to develop a ‘space pen’. And they came up with this …” [produce official NASA space pen] “… which, adjusted to today’s values, cost $1.5bn to perfect. The Soviets used … a pencil” [produce pencil] “My question to you is: is this system to be a space pen or a pencil?” Invariably someone will say: “can we have the space pen for the cost of the pencil?” and you are off on your discussion of a key factor for every  project – value for money.

Discover your client’s main project drivers

When giving a project presentation to a prospective client I sometimes start with an ice-breaker. One favourite method is to put an old joke on the screen:




– choose two …

… which usually gets a chuckle, even if only out of politeness.

Of course you are going to deliver on all three. However, there are two serious purposes behind this joke:

  1. It initiates discussion to discover of the client’s main drivers for the project;
  2. It is an indication of where you are likely to have to deploy most of your skill during the project. Think about it this way:
  • If the client wants the project delivered quickly and cheaply then you are likely to spend a lot of effort on resolving quality issues.
  • If they want a high quality project delivered quickly then financial control is going to be particularly important.
  • If they want a quality project without spending a lot of money then you are going to have to be prepared to use some inventive shortcuts.