Fifteen tests with fifteen possible results, or diagnoses. Anything other than what is anticipated and the system stops. There are two outcomes to the system stopping, one is that a new or revised system is adopted, the other is that it simply stops and there is no outcome. Which of the above relates to a project where the system is the purpose? Which relates to an outcome! Any project management system is nothing more than a tool to assist in achieving a desired outcome. Take an example of a health care system. The purpose is to promote health and healing. Where illness is apparent, the purpose is to find a cure. Fifteen tests with fifteen diagnoses. This relates obviously to a very simple and possibly standardized range of outcomes. The standardization of any system of this kind is clearly based on statistics. In carrying out tests for the conditions most likely it is possible to establish the illness quickly. If all fifteen tests yield no diagnosis, they will then proceed to the next system, a system other than the one normally practiced, a contingency or something entirely new. This then requires a combination of expertise, imagination, innovation, openness and intelligence. The patient is referred to a consultant expert. Common obstacles or supports to any system relate to belief. Not only a belief in the system, but a belief in the outcome,
and perhaps more particularly, that the outcome is possible. A belief that the fifteen tests have failed in arriving at a diagnosis is an obstacle or a limiting belief. A belief that the fifteen tests have eliminated possibilities is a success. A blind faith in the infallibility of a system leads at times to a false protection of refusing to be seen to fail. No one likes sharing failure, and if the belief is that the fifteen tests have failed then the sharing of results is at times refused. Where the belief is that these tests have successfully eliminated possibilities then the sharing of this information will prevent duplication. Duplication is the adding of unnecessary weight and uselessly expending energy. Duplication or any adding of tests that are not required costs time and money.
‘I have not failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work’. (Thomas Eddison)
Thomas Eddison of course references 10,000 different ways, and not of one way disproven 10,000 times.
Project management systems are the formalizing of thought processes. The emphasis being on thought where the formulas are mere tools. Should I travel back in time with a modern car, say to the middle ages, people would see the car operating without any apparent external power. Apart from the risk to me of being burnt as a witch, this simple demonstration would highlight to those a possibility. Assuming that no detailed inspection is allowed how long after this would a modern car become possible? It would simply happen because it is possible. However, while it may do everything a modern car can do, it may in terms of the system used be very different. This would be the result of expertise (that available at the time), imagination (considering with that expertise how something may be possible), innovation (invention), openness (unwilling to apportion the possibilities to witchcraft) and intelligence. All these factors must therefore be applied when an existing system does not deliver a genuine possibility. Thought is vital even when applying an established system. To blindly go where no one has gone before, is to apply an established system to a new challenge. It may work, but without thought it is not likely to. Essentially, it is never wise to ignore possibilities due to establishment practices. The fifteen tests noted are merely a representation of a system. All systems in order to have some level of success require rigidity. But! All systems in order to excel must be flexible. For simple or non complex goals, systems work. For complex goals, a series of systems may be required, though more importantly innovation and intelligence is needed.
Impediments and solutions to progress.
Science may be likened to religion, where adherence to a principal is dogmatic. The science of project management may therefore at times be a dogmatic adherence to a system or systems. The demonstration of achieving a goal that has proven impossible when dogmatically applying a system at times can generate a feeling of impotence in those applying the system. This is threatening, it threatens the ego as did anything unusual in medieval times threaten the status of established religion at the time. Fires burned. Fear is another major impediment to achieving goals. The fear of trying something new, the fear of being vilified for trying something new, the fear of being sued for trying something new, the fear of failure. If the fear of failure prevents one from trying….
‘Get rid of the fecking eejit barrier’. (Paul Ronan)
A patient visits a doctor. The doctor carries out a thorough examination with the limitations of equipment and general practice. While it is evident that there is something wrong, it is not possible with the GP system to establish a diagnosis. The doctor refers the patient to an expert and shares the FULL information gathered with that expert. (This it appears does not always happen). It’s like a relay race, the expert carries forward the gathered information in order to seek a diagnosis. This process continues, to other experts, to stations where highly technical scanners and equipment are used, the information gathered increases and the likelihood of a diagnosis. Any system or series of systems may be exhausted. This is not the failings of the individuals or experts within the system or the system itself. It is in fact the success of that system in eliminating possibilities. The remaining possibilities in each process are lessened, their number declines. Belief is a highly important aspect of achieving any goal.
‘Whether you think you can, or think you can’t, you’re probably right’. (Henry Ford)
What if that fifteen stage process could be reduced to five? Is this because the ten are superfluous to the desired outcome? Fifteen cogs in the machine, take for instance a construction project. In a construction project, there is a client, architect, engineer and contractor. There may also be services engineers, quantity surveyors, project managers and others. The need for each should be evaluated and anything superfluous should not be engaged with. Political interests, greed and the will to control are all aspects that lead to added cogs which will at best reduce the efficiency of the overall process. The primary interest must always be the end goal. At worst, the projects can be stopped completely. Evaluate the project based on complexity and size, reduce the number of cogs to the absolute minimum and then add only those that will make the process smoother.
“In our glorious fight for civil rights, we must guard against being fooled by false slogans, as ‘right to-work.’ It provides no ‘rights’ and no ‘works.’ Its purpose is to destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining… We demand this fraud be stopped.” (Martin Luther King Jr.)
The illusion of protecting the ‘right to work’ in instances where additional cogs are added for the mere purpose of providing ‘jobs’, whether for friends, family or the dispossessed is not the protection of any ‘rights’. It is in fact the neglecting of the ‘rights’ of the end users in any project. Any failure in the building of for instance a hospital due to adding needless cogs results in a delay in the treatment of illness and death for some of the end users. This is an almighty failure. A broken cog will fail in delivering the power to the end purpose, when broken cogs are realized the simplest and quickest solution is to remove them. This in no manner means that to employ is not correct, it merely states that in order to employ correctly, those employed must be supportive of the project. To qualify this further, to employ in this regard is to add cogs of any kind. Unfortunately, larger civic projects often have many cogs. These are added for a variety of reasons, much of which does not support the end goal. An example may be political interference in the proposed location of a hospital.
Ghosts in the machine.
Examples of weak cogs based on my own experience include invisible or concealed cogs. Inattention results in the expectation that others will perform and take in the slack, this is laziness. Ego is where individuals believe themselves capable of everything. I have encountered many examples of this and it relates to a pathological need to control and is more often carried out by those without ability than those with. There is at times a focus on the image as being the all important, the perception others have of the egotist. Those who have educated themselves sufficiently to carry out tasks often realize their inability to do everything. Greed blinds people to the greater good through the focus being so narrow. Lack of trust, again this relates to ego in that those who fail in trusting their appointed experts do so out of ignorance and a misguided self belief. All of these are invisible cogs in a machine and can sap the progress or energy completely. Even where the ultimate goal is achieved it is often less than is could have been.
Having unrealistic expectations relating to possibilities, costs or program are other examples of additional cogs that prevent growth or progress. These expectations often result in projects being re-evaluated, a time consuming and expensive process. It is a client’s responsibility to appoint expertise that they can rely on, that they trust. It is a following necessity that they listen to and pay attention to those experts. This is not only a progress related duty, it is in fact a legal responsibility relating in Ireland to building control and health and safety regulations. Additional measures are sometimes needed. Where the system and process is already successful, additional cogs should carefully be evaluated. This is a client’s responsibility based on the advice given by those appointed experts. Remember, these appointed experts are often well educated in their chosen specialist areas and are therefore likely to be familiar with their own limitations. It is of course the responsibility of the experts to admit their own limitations, both to themselves and to those they represent.
Procrastination can be a major impediment to progress in many respects. I will avoid the reference here to the failure in making decisions. In order to avoid procrastination be aware of the alternatives available where there is a possibility of a particular process not being successful. If you’re driving up a steep hill and the second gear cog shears, the faster you change to first in order to maintain progress the less likely you’ll come to a complete stop. If you procrastinate and fail in changing quickly enough the vehicle will come to a complete stop. Avoiding procrastination is about speed. Procrastination also relates in project management to attitudes, an experts opinion may at times be at variance with their clients. Where the client has been sufficiently informed an expert without very good reason should not insist on a particular technology. Insisting on something already decided on creates delays and additional costs. Make decisions quickly based on full information and progress. Avoid revisiting decisions already made.
Corruption generally increases the costs of a project both in terms of time and money. At its most basic form, corruption can arise by placing the wants of an individual above those of a collective. This can be done subconsciously where the need for simplicity is seen as taking the first option when it may be true that another option would serve the project better. By definition it relates to the corrupting of a project. This can be as simple as arguing about a technology or adding an additional unnecessary cog. Corruption may of course be deliberate, that’s for another time.
A client’s responsibility to appoint suitably qualified and able people to carry out tasks needs to be accompanied by trust. Is it the responsibility of a client to double check their agents ability, or can they merely base it on trust? This is the reason for organizations and legislation attesting to individual’s ability, it may well be considered the clients responsibility to check suitable registers.
The agents or experts responsibility is to their clients and the processes needed to achieve a desired outcome. There is a strong emphasis on the honesty of making claims to actual abilities.
Focus and attention of all involved is of paramount importance in achieving anything. The more complex the intention, the more flexible the process must be.
Who owns the project? Who manages the initial control of a project?
It is the initiator of the project who carries the responsibility. It is also often the initiator who requires most the abilities of those experts appointed in order to comply with that responsibility.