What Is Santa Claus Bringing Your PMO?

From the Game Theory in Management Blog
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Modelling Business Decisions and their Consequences

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The saint at the heart of the Santa Claus story is Saint Nicholas, who actually lived in the third and fourth centuries A.D., and was known for his acts of philanthropy (ProjectManagement.com’s theme for December). One of the most widespread stories about him involves a poor man with three daughters of marrying age; however, this man did not have any money for a dowry, needed to secure an adequate husband, and carrying the real threat that they would be sold into slavery. Saint Nicholas became aware of their quandary, and would throw bags of gold coins through the family’s open windows at night (in a bid, no doubt, to remain anonymous), landing them near the fireplace where stockings were hanging to dry. This would become the Christmas tradition of filling stockings hung out on Christmas Eve with goodies to be revealed the following morning.[i]

Meanwhile, Back In The Project Management World…

Saint Nicholas’ story got me to wondering what Project Managers would wish for if they were to have access to a profoundly generous person with near-miraculous powers at their disposal. In creating such a list, I would like to remind GTIM Nation of my theory of the three different types of management, so:

  • Asset Managers seek to maximize the return on their assets, with their primary information stream emanating from the General Ledger;
  • Strategic Managers pursue the maximizing of market share, and can invoke a variety of strategies to do so (e.g., anything from hostile takeovers to funding an advertising campaign), and
  • Project Managers work to complete their projects on-time, on-budget, while meeting all of the customers’ scope requirements.

Whereas “What do managers want?” is an extremely open-ended question, by specifying that we’re looking for what PMs want narrows down the list significantly. With respect to the other management types, my list for PMs includes:

  • The organization’s accounting departments abandon the idea that the General Ledger is the source and residence of all management information expressed in currency, and especially reject the notion that the GL can provide insightful analysis on a given project’s cost performance.
  • Similarly, PMs could wish for the Strategic Managers to refrain from assuming managerial supremacy, or even superiority, given the fact that any organization that consistently disappoints its customers is going to find acquiring more market share to be very difficult indeed, regardless of the quality of the advertising campaigns.

Then from within the Project Management community we could wish for:

  • A return to the 1980s definition of Management Reserve and Contingency (see last week’s blog);
  • Those advocating for widespread usage of the technique of re-estimating a project’s remaining costs, and adding this figure to the cumulative actuals as a way of asserting that project’s Estimate At Completion (the so-called “bottoms-up EAC”), have an epiphany (get it?), reverse their anti-Management Science stances, and instead advocate for the calculated version of the EAC.
  • If we can’t get the previous bullet, then at least those “experts” should back off the dopey notion that the “bottoms-up” EAC should be time-phased.
  • If we can’t get either of the previous two bullets, that these “experts” acknowledge that time-phasing the bottoms-up EAC is the same as creating an alternate cost baseline, reducing the original budget baseline to rubber. Showing my age once again, I can remember when the existence of a rubber baseline on a project was a very bad thing. Now, with time-phased EACs, I guess it’s required.
  • If correlation is not causation, and science is all about establishing causal relationships that can be demonstrated and repeated in an experimental setting, how is it that assertions based on statistical correlation keep making their way into the codex of acceptable PM techniques? My next wish is for GTIM Nation at first, and then the PM community at large, to begin to insist that all risk management aficionados subject their analyses to the level of review rigor expected of any other scholastic endeavor, and to respect the results. In short, the future cannot be quantified, and I wish the risk management community would stop pretending to the contrary.
  • For perhaps the biggest wish of all, analogous to a seven-year-old suburban-dwelling kid wishing for a pony, I would be made excessively happy if those organizations that present as advancing PM would embrace actual management science and legitimate scholarship, right down to falsifiability and genuine causal analysis.

I think I’ll ask my managing editor, Cameron, to put a GTIM stocking on the PMI® Headquarters’ fireplace mantle on the evening of the 24th. Assuming Santa fires up ProjectManagement.com from time to time, and reads this blog, he now knows what I want. Who knows? It could happen…



[i] Retrieved from http://www.stnicholascenter.org/pages/who-is-st-nicholas/ on December 8, 2018, 21:22 MST.

Posted on: December 10, 2018 09:57 PM | Permalink

Comments (4)

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Michael, its Interesting post.

I'm completely with you on the Risk Management wish. I'd also like it very much if Strategic Managers would realize that project methodology changes are not going to alter resource requirements.

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