Project Management

The Missing Piece

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The Missing Piece

Categories: Business

We are all familiar with the well-known ‘As-Is’ and ‘To-Be’ model. Whenever we talk about change in an organization, we will first assess the ‘As-Is’ situation and compare it with the ‘To-Be’ state that we desire to become in order to define the gap needed to reach the end state. We usually refer to this process as ‘Gap Analysis’. This can be easily visualized in the diagram below.

One major output from the gap analysis is the ‘Must-Do’ actions in order to transform the organization from the current ‘As-Is’ state to the future ‘To-Be’ state. This is the main source for all the changes required that will eventually turn into a list of tactical action plans. Projects targeted at changing processes, tools and people will be spun off to implement the changes so as to achieve the tactical objectives. The diagram below shows the relationships of all these put together.

Vision communicated, funds approved, project teams formed, and we are all set to embark on our audacious journey of the ‘Great Revolution’. So far so good... Everybody is so excited about the future and the challenging projects ahead. But wait! If you have paused for a second and taken a step back to think for a while, you will realize that something is missing in the diagram above. Are you able to tell what is missing?

Sometimes, we are just too eager to jump into conclusion on ‘what’ needs to be done to achieve what we want to be. More often than not, we tend to neglect our current capability and what we actually ‘Can-Do’. The consequence is we usually end up missing a lot of targets by aiming too far and too much. One good example is the New Year’s resolutions that we set every year. “I think the problem people have is that they often set pretty unrealistic goals,” said Joseph Ferrari, a professor of psychology at DePaul University, with regards to the reason why most people failed to stick to their New Year’s resolutions. If someone had done a research on the factors affecting failed New Year’s resolutions versus failed projects, we might be able to discover some correlations and interesting insights between the two. According to Ferrari, people should be realistic and focus on small wins and successes. Paraphrasing this statement, it means that we should set targets/goals that are both realistic and achievable in smaller chunks. What does it mean by ‘achievable’? To be achievable, the target that we set must be something that we can reach within our current capability and this is an implicit assumption that we often missed – i.e. we assume that we are able to achieve the target that we set without first assessing our current capability. This is the exact missing piece in the diagram above – what we ‘Can-Do’.

No doubt, we know and appreciate the value of “Aim for the moon. If you miss, you may hit a star.” But this means that we would constantly miss our targets most of the time and would lead to undue demoralization and frustration. The situation usually gets worse if we repetitively experiencing misalignments between expectation (what we expect to achieve) and capability (what we are capable to achieve). Therefore, it is extremely important for us to ensure both our expectation and capability are always in sync. While defining what we ‘Must-Do’ in order to reach what we want ‘To-Be’, we should not forget to take into consideration on what we ‘Can-Do’ at the present ‘As-Is’ state. Putting all these together, we may arrive with an improvised model as shown in the diagram below.

Posted on: April 21, 2013 06:03 AM | Permalink

Comments (11)

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This is so applicable to a situation in my office that occurred the other day. One of our lead developers is working on a priority project. He estimated he had about 4 weeks of work remaining. The other day he committed to completing the work in 1 1/2 weeks so the software can be demonstrated at our company''s Board meeting next weekend. In maing this commitment he gave no consideration to other work or meetings he had been committed to. Today he is complaining that he cannot do anything because he is required to attend two multi-hour meeitngs.

Dear Karen,

Your story is a perfect example of over-committing the 'Must-Do' without properly assessing the 'Can-Do' part. Thanks for sharing it. I believe if we look around, it is not difficult for us to find similar examples in our work environment.

Very good article, provoked a lot of thought. For me, I guess the question becomes how do we fill the gap between what we must do and what we can do? This is the essence of true Portfolio resource management, isn't it?

Thanks Gary. You are right that this comes back to the question on resource management, no doubt on that. However, people usually missed out this piece by assuming they have all the resource for their projects, and this usually ends up with resource contention. A few factors to consider for resource include - availability, capacity and competency etc.

Like what Karen shared in her story above, people usually commit 100% without first checking if they do have 100% capacity to do the job.

Great Article once again Wai , The core essence of Resource Management is to plan things out keeping in mind what resources can do in order to meet what ought to be done ! This is true that in various cases resources over commit that may have certain reasons e.g. Management Pressure , Competition with in the team , Overconfidence and may be a care free attitude . I believe PM should be the one looking into these things when planning sessions are held and involving a group of experts who help team planning the sprints / iterations can really help estimation as close as possible to the reality .

Furthermore gap between Can do and Must do could be linked with the resource performance evaluation to a certain extent but it should not be like a dangling sword rather a culture should be set in a tone that empowers employees to take on the responsibility .

Last but not the least , As is and To be , the gap analysis is the key things to get things done in acceptable and optimum way .

Thanks for sharing your views Aamer. You are spot on that core essence of Resource Management is to plan things out keeping in mind what resources can do in order to meet what ought to be done. No doubt on that.

The presentation is very smooth and vivid. Really appreciate Wai for putting things in great perspective.

At the same time, Karen view point is absolute truth. Here PM really feels she is let down by the person whom she had trusted. More than scoping of "dos", in her case, trust deficiency gap increases effecting poor relationship. People with good attitude and honesty will what I guess Karen will look out and not just technical master. I am sure it all started with a good resource planning but such surprise elements demotivates(for other reason being we are trusted by our superiors) and any repetition(either the same guy with a second chance or someone else) tend to make us more skeptical. Adding to capacity to do etc, honest attitude of the resource being employed and at our end worst case scenarios probably are few answers we shall explore I guess along with "dos".

A fresher point of view on everyday''s things helps to take a step up and forward, thanks

Srikanth & mfconsolini,

Thanks for your comments.

Wai Mun

Well said. Your article cemented the fact that a project must have a cluey team of subject matter experts from the broad spectrum of the end to end process spanning business, technology and beyond (customer experience, regulatory compliance and standards).

As for Karen's situation, I guess the Lead Developer put his desire to vow the senior management ahead of what he might have thought as "mundane tasks". Such inconveniences are not different to those who have multitude of reasons for not attending work at all.

Lily, thanks for your comment. I guess the key point is still on how we could match the expectation with the capability so as to avoid disappointment.

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