There is one inevitable rule in software project management: For the real date of completion ask one of the old die-hard project managers, not a high ranking people manager.
You find an very interesting weblog entry about the delays for Windows at Philip Su´s weblog: Broken Windows Theory. He wrote an long but good essay about the internal problems of the Vista Development. He is an insider, because he works for Microsoft. So he should know it.
Whenever a schedule isn´t controlled by the needs of the project, you seed a forseeable failure. Either you cat abyssal quality and missing features galore or you will miss your schedule. Or both like in the case Microsoft Vista … (Does anybody remember WinFS?).
Microsoft stands not alone with such problem. At several high profile delays (like the german toll collect), the rumour mill goes, that the internal project plans forecasted the ultimate date of finalization astonishingly correct, but out of some reasons a much earlier date was presented to the outside.
PS: I like the phrase “processes going thermonuclear”. And every company is vulnerable to this, when there are no designed-in shortcuts in the processes that helps to keep the processes under control. There is no sense to completely reiterate an approval process when you only changed the color of your car. In any normal family you will discuss the colour, not the complete descision to buy the type of the car.