The Project Assassin returns!
The Project Assassin has been musing on which areas of programmes and projects are most vulnerable to attack and has decided that there are three obvious candidates.
Measurement, Change and Reward
Measurement is a soft target because many don't measure anything meaningful; those who measure lots of things get lost in the data and rarely look at the information; what does get measured is what is easiest to measure rather than what the programme/project is intended to do.
The Project Assassin need do little more than maintain the status quo as the lemmings are already heading for the cliff. Yes, I know that our view of lemming behaviour is based on a film in which they might have been given a little shove, but the budding Project Assassin must not be above giving the odd nudge in the right direction when others are trying to avoid the drop. The usual nudge is to keep people away from numbers, particularly those expressed in monetary terms.
Change is a ubiquitous target because it applies not only to the aims of the project but to the constraints under which it is operating and to the people involved.
There is therefore ample scope for all sorts of nefarious activity:
- Keep the targets changing regularly to achieve something akin to Brownian motion in which a lots of rushing around results in no overall movement.
- Always be open to budgetary reductions (for the common good, of course) but make sure that scope or required effort are not reduced in line with these
- Keep people on the move. When people have been in post for more than 6 months they may begin to make a full contribution
Reward is an obvious target but one that is often missed! People will tend to do what they are rewarded for; they won’t tend to do what they are not rewarded for.
- Keeping reward systems totally disconnected from performance on projects is often accomplished with almost embarassing ease but we should never be above using methods which lack finesse.
- Ensure that funding is poured into areas where projects are failing (because they clearly have the need) and reduced for projects which are proceeding well (because they can obviously manage with less). With a little practice, funding can be left just insufficient to deliver an otherwise succesful project without providing sufficient resources to turn around a project which is failing.
- Never reward the taking of risks as projects heading for an early demise have been rescued by such bold steps. Encourage sticking to the procedures at all costs and issue frequent reminders that non-compliance with a standard is a far worse sin than non-delivery of a project.
Happy hunting grounds?For the Project assassin, the best projects are clearly those where:
- What is wanted is least easily expressed in financial terms
- The target changes, the budget changes and the people are rotated into and out of the project
- People suffer for successful project delivery and benefit from project failure (e.g. by more funding being made available to areas in trouble than those that are succeeding)
- Those who take risks are not well thought of
- Where are project/programme benefits rarely expressed in financial terms?
- Where do the aims of a project change significantly because of a public statement by someone higher up the tree?
- Where do budgets get cut routinely and are rarely certain beyond 5th April?
- Where is rotation of staff institutionalised?
- Where do failing organisations receive more funding than successful ones?
- Which organisations are particularly risk averse?
Hmmm. Don't tell them that I sent you!