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The Management Equivalent of Infinite Postponment

In scheduling there is a concept called infinite postponement (more correctly indefinite postponement) where a job that is ready to be executed is starved of resources because other jobs keep coming along that are a little bit more fit to be run according to the scheduling algorithm.

This behaviour occurs in management as well.
One example, in management, is where a small job with low cost and low but continuous and obvious benefit is put off in favour of a big project that might remove the need for the small job sometime in the future. When you couple this with delays on the large project - which really is promising - but too expensive, disruptive or complex to execute quickly and the opportunity for the benefits brought by the small but eminently realisable project are frittered away waiting on a promising future which doesn’t quite happen.

In economic terms, uncertainty should increase the discount rate for future projects. Unfortunately, humans often tend to be optimistic in both terms of completion dates and the overcoming of difficulties related to projects and hence mentally apply low discount rates.

This circumstance is once again a demonstration of the principle that perfection is the enemy of good enough1.

1. Perfection is the enemy of good enough:

  • Le mieux est l'ennemi du bien -- Voltaire, Dictionnaire Philosophique
  • “Perfect is the enemy of good enough", -- Soviet Admiral Sergei Georgievich Gorshkov
  • “The greatest enemy of a good plan is the dream of a perfect plan." -- Prussian General Karl von Clausewitz, Vom Kriege, 1832

(quotations extracted from