Love him or hate him, few people would deny that Steve Jobs knew a thing or two about developing products. In “The Lost Interviews” he had this to say.

“As you evolve that great idea, it changes and grows. It never comes out like it starts because you learn a lot more as you get into the subtleties of it. You also find tremendous trade-offs that you have to make. There are certain things you cannot make electrons do, or plastic or glass or even factories or robots. Designing a products is keeping 5,000 things in your brain – fitting them all together in new and different ways to get what you want. Every day you discover something new that is a new problem or a new opportunity to fit these things together.”

Tremendous trade-offs! Sounds terrifying and rather promising the same time, don’t you think? This is where knowing the Cost of Delay really can help. Of course, knowing the Cost of Delay won’t guarantee that your product or software project will be successful, but it definitely helps when you’re trying to make key decisions, especially decisions that impact time to market and total lifecycle profits.

We talked about this briefly in the Black Swan Farming paper:

Maersk Line saw waste from a cost-centric view – rather than a more holistic approach that takes into account value and urgency. A strong focus on reducing development cost had resulted in sub-optimal trade-offs in decision-making. When we interviewed business stakeholders, they expressed frustration with the focus on cost reduction and the subsequent delay in deliveries.
These were some of the things we heard from business stakeholders:

“…we often save a dime to later spend a dollar”

“…a $2,000 change which took 6 weeks…”

“Saving costs is good but delivering results is better”

If you don’t understand the Cost of Delay, how can you possibly make sensible trade-off decisions?