Project Management

I Don’t Even Know The Words To The Katalina Matalina Song!

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In the Steve Martin movie The Man With Two Brains, Martin’s character, Dr. Hfuhruhurr (you’ll need to see the movie to hear how it’s pronounced) is pulled over by the Austrian police while driving at excessive speeds. They perform a field sobriety test that includes the following steps:

  • Produce license,
  • Get out of the car,
  • Stretch arms out to the sides, and then touch nose,
  • Walk the white line (lane demarcation),
  • Come back, but while walking on hands,
  • One hand,
  • Perform a flip,
  • And simultaneously juggle three oranges, tap dance, and sing the “Katalina Matalina” song,

…all of which Dr. Hfuhruhurr performs successfully, while commenting “&^%$* your drunk tests are hard!”

Prior to seeing this movie I had never heard of the Katalina Matalina song, but I understand it’s fairly familiar to school-age children. The chorus goes like this:

Katalina Matalina

Upsidina walkadina

Hoca poca loca

Was her name.

The verses are hardly better. I would go on, but I’ve probably already sunk the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level Readability Calculator score for this blog to levels so low that the editorial staff may automatically reject it.

Meanwhile, Back In The Project Management World…

As our Earned Value and Critical Path Methodologies (EVM/.CPM) cost/schedule control systems go hurtling down the Project Management Information highway, they will sometimes attract the attention of PM constables who will pull them over and politely but authoritatively ask them to perform a few simple tests to determine their validity. It’s easy to see how a lot of these tests go directly to system efficacy, such as:

  • The presence of an activity percent complete without an actual start date,
  • An actual finish date without 100% complete,
  • Activities that have Finish-to-Start logic ties to each other (circular logic),
  • Negative float (indicating at least one activity on the critical path has an assigned constraint),

…among others. And, while the PM constables are usually very polite, the clear implication is that, should the Project Management Information System being evaluated happen to fail these tests, the take-away would be that the Project Team is either incompetent, deceitful, or both.

Aiding these PM constables in their duties are software tools that can scan large CPM networks or EV systems. This is all well and good, but I have to ask: what happens when a one-size-fits-all software intended to check system integrity is run against the Earned Value or Critical Path Methodologies-based systems associated with a-typical projects?

Here’s the situation using the Game Theorists’ favorite tool, the Payoff Grid:



System Doesn’t Really Have Problems

System Has Significant Problems

Software Returns No Issues

(A) Software worked as intended.

(B) Software missed problems.

Software Returns Significant Issues

(C) Project Team has problems.

(D) Software worked as intended.


In Scenarios A and D, the system integrity-checking software has performed as intended, and needs no further evaluation. However, if there are genuine problems with the PMIS being evaluated, and the software doesn’t pick up on it (Scenario B), then it looks really bad for that package, particularly if the subject project ends up overrunning or coming in rather late, with no early warning from the PMIS. In those instances where the PMIS is really okay, but the software came back with a list of errors, the natural inclination is for the Project Team is to chase those to ground. Prior to this forensic analysis and pursuit of the remedies, one question should be asked: are all of the checking software’s tests relevant?

Consider, for example, the old saw about how, if the number of activities (or percent of their budgets) using the Level-of-Effort method to claim their Earned Value amounts is over anywhere from 5% to 15%, this is indicative of error. I understand the value of using the more discreet methods of claiming EV, such as direct units or weighted milestones, when plausible. But for those projects that are more service-oriented than others, LOE will almost certainly be the most appropriate EV method for a plurality, if not a majority of its activities. Evidence for this assertion lies with the fact that, ironically, the Project Management task in almost all projects is invariably tracked using LOE, meaning that it’s entirely possible that the PM consulting firm performing a baseline integrity review using one of these software packages wouldn’t get a passing grade for their own PMIS.

Don’t misunderstand – I’m all for PMIS integrity, and for the software tools available that can help attain it. I’m also in favor of the detection of drunk drivers in Austria. I just think that having to walk on my hands on a straight line to establish sobriety is a bit excessive.

Besides, I don’t even know all the words to the Katalina Matalina song.

Posted on: April 20, 2021 11:49 AM | Permalink

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"If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things."

- Rene Descartes