In the ancient times, people just gathered all the jobs needed to be done in order to meet a final objective … And just did it. That was the ‘project’. Then a few thousand years ago there was talk about some people, who actually broke down these jobs in tasks, and in fact used separate resources to accomplish these tasks. These were the brilliant people that hung out in the palaces with royalty. These were the Project Managers.
Were they any smarter? Probably. Did they have access to better technology? Probably not; all they did was use a better version of the common sense, available at that time. As time creeps along, common sense gets refined and polished, resulting in ‘better technology’. But beware, these refined and polished common senses, in forms of ideas, methodologies, and theories will either take you to the palace, or will get you thrown in the lion pen.
We have come a long way, but we still primarily do the projects in the same manner. And keeping in line with the ‘polishing of the common sense’ model, evolved my Extreme PM’s three new theories; Pretense Irony, Expectation Escalation, and Risk Equalizer. This takes us that one step above in the evolutionary scale.
Pretense Irony is a circumstance, where one’s superior knowledge and experience allows the person to make an avowal, which may or may not reflect the actual reality and fact of that particular timeline, at the same time making a better decision, which is beneficial for the client, and other interested parties.
According to Extreme PM, it just means that you are a superior Project Manager. Let’s say you are competing with other Project Managers for a project. They give the client an estimate, let’s call it ‘Before Timeline’ (see figure 1.1), which will surely have a major creep. According to the Gartner Institute, “30 percent of IT projects are never successfully completed, wasting approximately $75US billion annually. And a startling 51 percent of IT projects exceed budget by 189 percent and deliver only 74 percent of expected functionality.” Everyone will be caught off guard, and the client will suffer. However, you, as the Extreme Project Manager will deliberately give the client a timeframe, which is less then it should take, let’s call it ‘After Timeline’ (see figure1.2).
Here is the advantage. You recognize that it will take longer, hence you will accommodate as you go along. You will gradually inform and cradle the client, the stakeholder, and more importantly, your staff. Therefore, compared to your would-be competition, you will be more functional and beneficial for the project and your client.
Figure 1.1: Before Timeline
Figure 1.2: After Timeline
But, wait… there’s more…
The staff gets the real benefit of this … A theory called, Expectation Escalation.
Expectation Escalation is reaching a state, where a specified amount of work is completed to a superior quality in general, than its preceding state, as a result of an optimistic objective.
This state is principally dominant in the project staff. A Project Manager comes to the final estimates as a result of the input from many different sources. Any one member or group of the project staff will not have the complete picture, to ascertain the exact timeframe of a distinct component of the project.
Thus, if you take the Pretense Irony in account in the equation, it stands to reason that the staff will not complete the project in time. However, as the goals of the timeline were somewhat embellished, the staff will not meet the goals, but still achieve a higher goal than normal, as the natural effort of the staff will be to meet the stated goal.
Another derivative of Expectation Escalation is the fact that you (the management) will discern their results as a success, even though the project staff did not meet the exact objectives. The staff will appreciate that their genuine efforts were rewarded, and not just the “bottom line”. The big picture? You have just created more satisfied and indebted employees for your client. You have acquired another win-win notch for you and your company’s professional belt.
Risk Equalizer is an action point that challenges every risk already defined by the project, and converts them to assumptions, by assigning each pre-defined risk a responsibility, then assigning new risks, with improved net effect.
It is normal for a few risks to be left over. Prior to the creation of the Project Plan, even previous to the formation of the Project Charter, a cursory glance at the risks is essential. The next step is to conduct a meticulous risk analysis, and allot new risks. The end result of Risk Equalization is that you are left with fewer risks that were beyond your control, and are now confronting risks that have been defined by you, creating a more controllable net effect for your attentiveness.
A word of caution here; before performing Risk Equalization, carefully study the client’s version of the risk analysis. For risks allotted a rating of ‘high’ or ‘critical’. Be very cautious in converting to assumptions. There are two primary reasons for this.
The first reason is the sensitivity of the client. If the client has designated a risk to he ‘high’ or ‘critical’, it may seem as careless (although an Extreme PM is never careless) in your part to ‘discount’ the risk. The second reason is the conversion of risk to assumption. As a responsibility must be assigned to each assumption, the ‘receiving’ party may consider it too precarious, both politically and professionally.
Hence, Pretense Irony, Expectation Escalation, and Risk Equalizer are all modern tools to serve the client better. It battles scope creep and creates a win-win situation for the client, or the project owner. And as with all cutting edge ideas, they may be deemed a bit divisive or even be uncomfortable to use for a Project Manger without the proper people skills. Remember, the primary decree here is not just to make the numbers look good, but also to serve the client, efficiently and effectively.
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