Project Management

You Know Superman Wasn’t Born With His Powers, Right?

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

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The assertion inserted into the titular question is absolutely consistent with the Superman mythology. Kal-el was born on the planet Krypton, which orbited a red star. The people of Krypton were pretty much like you and me, unable to fly from place to place, lacking extreme strength, and speaking modern American-English. It wasn’t until Kal-el’s father, Jor-el, placed him into a spaceship and sent him to Earth, a planet that orbits a yellow sun, that he attained his super powers, eventually maturing into Superman. Indeed, any Kryptonian who made the escape from the doomed Krypton and made it to a star system with a yellow sun would have attained such powers (e.g., General Zod, Ursa, Non, the entire population of Kandor, should they get out of the bottle), though it’s somewhat ambiguous if an Earth native would have had a similar up-power surge if they had moved to a planet with a red sun.

Meanwhile, Back In The Project Management World…

(I can almost hear Cameron thinking “how on [this] Earth is Michael going to make this transition?”) The distinction of the environments where Superman (and other Kryptonians) have their power and where they don’t will serve us well as we segue into ProjectManagement.com’s theme for July, Power Skills. You see, the PM world is very much bifurcated in a similar fashion, just with an epistemological basis instead of a cosmic one. Recall my Irrefutable Rule of Management (I forget the number), that all Management Information Systems (MISs) must have the following three characteristics in order to have any value at all:

  • They must be accurate – inaccurate information is obviously useless,
  • They must be timely – management information doesn’t age like wine or cheese, and…
  • They must be relevant.

I’d like to evaluate these rules along with another Irrefutable Rule (again, I’ve forgotten how I numbered these things), that PM has two purposes: (1) to put into the hands of decision-makers the information they need to make, well, informed decisions, and (2) to provide something of an audit trail, so those decisions can be evaluated for efficacy by future PMs. One more item to keep in mind: MISs aren’t free, and, most often, they aren’t even cheap.

In World Number 1, those PMs (or PMO Directors, or Project Controls Specialists) who have the ability to evaluate which information streams are relevant, and which are not, have PM superpower. They can not only match the proper level of Earned Value or Critical Path rigor to the size and scope of the project, but they can also go light (or even eliminate altogether) superfluous systems, such as risk management (no initial caps), inappropriate levels of Quality Management, or extreme Communications Management arrangements. By doing so, they not only deliver valuable information to the decision-makers, they also avoid wasting money, time, or expertise on the marginally useful (or even useless) ones, regardless of what outside quasi-PM forces maintain. While they (generally) do not wear capes or oddly-fonted letters on the front of their clothing, they are irreplaceable in the fight to establish an appealing cost-to-value ratio in the PM information system generation and maintenance arena, and often find themselves at odds with…

Coming from World Number 2, those PMs (or PMO Directors, or Project Controls Specialists) who are more focused on fulfilling the terms of requirements (note the word – it will come up again soon), which are almost always addressed towards some sort of generic project, who insist that projects must have, say, an advanced risk management (no initial caps) capability, when, in reality, no such need exists. Nevertheless, the requirement remains, and must be enforced, else some “expert,” who has absolutely no idea of the nature of the specific scope being executed, will maintain that some form of PM transgression has occurred, and will inflict whatever damage such ones can wreak. Caught in such an environment, the relevance-detecting PMs lose their superpower, and are forced to waste time, energy, and budget on non-essential pursuits. They become frustrated, weak, and suffer extreme pain as they slowly begin to glow green, having been imbued with the specific radiation generated from Kryptonite, as they slip nearer to…

Ha, ha! Just kidding about that last part. But those PM-types with the relevance Power Skill will become frustrated, more so if some entity either within the organization or from some outside agency performs some sort of review or audit, and begins to pepper them with extraneous or immaterial corrective actions. At that point, it will make no difference if the PM-type was born with the relevance Power Skill, or attained it based on the environment where they work. They will no longer be super.

Posted on: July 05, 2021 10:44 PM | Permalink

Comments (2)

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Thanks for this.... demystifying the myths of Superman and teaching us some good PM lessons

Thanks for sharing

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