The 2006 film “Who Killed the Electric Car” explores General Motors’ tragic decision to pull the plug on the EV-1, it’s pioneering purpose-built electric car. We all know what’s happened since then. Now, GM is making a big bet that the Chevy Volt, its new plug-in hybrid will reverse years of balance sheet bleeding and make consumers think sweet green thoughts about Detroit. Today’s Wall Street Journal article makes the case that not only is it critical that GM deliver a product that lives up to the hype but that it also delivers it according to a tight 2010 timetable:

If the Volt fails to work as GM has promised or its launch runs into significant delays, the company could lose credibility with some of its newly won fans, says Elizabeth Lowery, GM’s vice president for environmental and energy issues. “We have to deliver,” she adds. The vehicle is “very important to our entire strategy.”

The LiquidPlanner team talks a lot about the significance of creating better schedules that in turn lead to highly accurate and “trustable” project exit dates. In many instances, missing a ship date by a few weeks won’t sink your business. However, when you commit to delivering a new product or service by a specific date, you’ve made a promise. And in the Internet echo chamber where customers can and will make their opinion known, the stakes are that much higher. Remember finally getting your paws on Microsoft Office ’97 in 1998? Imagine Steve Jobs getting up on stage at the WWDC and telling a roomful of fans that the launch date for iPhone 3.0 has slipped and won’t be shipped for another month?

Obviously, bringing an entirely new automobile concept to market involves an overwhelming amount of uncertainty. And it’s another example of why it’s so important to capture that uncertainty before a project takes that final turn just a little too fast and crashes into the guardrail of project failure.

GM Volt
The High Cost of Missed Deadlines was last modified: September 15th, 2008 by Charles Seybold