Hangar Queens


A hangar queen is an airplane that is used for spare parts and rarely flown. Air force squadrons are often evaluated on the percentage of fighter airplanes ready for flight each month. However, given the scarcity of spare parts, every squadron has one or two hangar queens. A few days before the end of the month some squadrons’ maintenance crews will take parts off working airplanes and put them on the hangar queens to get the engines working. The hangar queens will then be towed to the flight line and the engines will be turned on to certify that the squadron is 100% ready. The parts will then be taken off the hangar queens, put back on the active airplanes, and the hangar queens will be placed in the hangar for next month. Of course, this whole activity has no value other than to make the squadron look good. In addition this activity results in the squadron being less ready for combat during the period of certification.   

What are your “hangar queens”? How many activities does your squadron perform that have no value, but you have them do it to please the executives, board members and stockholders? Standish Group research shows that 80% of a software project’s activities are made up of hangar queens or activities that are worthless and even harmful. .

Let us consider the value of a software project budget. The software project budget is an estimate of the cost of a project based on a collection of activities to build features and functions on the assumption of need. At this point, let us not even consider if the planned features and functions have value. Much time, money and effort is spent to create the project budget. The project budget will go through several iterations and approval cycles.

After the software budget is approved, the project starts and the real fun begins. Activities and tasks are then tracked against the budget. Much effort is expended to make sure that the actual costs are consistent with the budget or cost estimates. Variances are reported, argued and changed by committees and highly paid executives. Often changes to the budget require high-level meetings with lots of horse-trading. When the project is within the budget the project teams feel good; when the project is out of budget the teams are frustrated and figure-pointing ensues. At some point the project is resolved, either by being completed and implemented, canceled, or completed and not used. In most cases the budget is filed away in a banker’s box, never seen to be again.

The project budget and tracking alone could cost 10% or more of the true cost of a software project. What would it mean if you could eliminate the project budget and tracking? You could use the 10% plus to create more products that would return more value. This is just one of the ideas that you could implement using Standish Group’s Value Portfolio Optimization and Management Service. Our Value Portfolio Optimization and Management Service allows you to focus your project portfolio on worthwhile activities, freeing up your organization to create value. Our service offers the following benefits: high returns on Investment, more innovations, greater stakeholder satisfaction, less management frustration and reduced project overhead.  

It’s time to stop working on hangar queens. Let Standish Group help you  focus on projects that soar. For more information about our Value Portfolio Optimization and Management Service, please e-mail Jennifer Lynch: Jennifer@standishgroup.com. We look forward to serving you!

  |     |     |     |     |  

Subject Matter

Optimizing Scope

About the Author:


Jim Johnson

Jim Johnson is chairman of The Standish Group. He has been professionally involved in the computer industry for over 40 years and has a long list of published books, papers, articles and speeches. He has a combination of technical, marketing, and research achievements focused on mission-critical applications and technology. He is best known for his research on project performance and early recognizing technology trends. Jim is a pioneer of modern research techniques and continues to advance in the research industry through case-based analytical technology.

The Standish Group
Jim JohnsonJim
Jim CrearJim
Jennifer  LynchJennifer
Robert KelleyRobert
Lee GesmerLee

The Standish Group News

The Standish Group Events


CHAOS Tuesday Podcast

The Dezider