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Project management. New ideas.

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Project management is hard science. That’s why the drum should always be placed exclusively in the left hand and strictly perpendicular to the floor.


We all love projects. They give us a drive, with a successful completion increase our weight in a professional environment, and sometimes even bring us good money. And we all hate projects, because it means sleepless nights with liters of coffee, conflicts with contractors and colleagues, and sometimes, at unsuccessful completion, financial losses and searching for a new job.

Unlike everyday activities, any project is a risky thing in itself. Each project is unique in some way. More often, it is exclusive in most ways. The fact that you have successfully coped with the previous project does not guarantee that success awaits you in the next. The fact that you have failed one project does not mean that the same fate will befall the new one. Doing a project involving external contractors just growth risks. When you already start the project, it is very complicated to change the outsourcer. Turning of the contractor in the middle of the project almost certainly leading it to a situation when the timing, budget or all at once will be exceeded. Typically, you can’t try a contractor on a small task and then assign it to a large one. And the fact that little project ended successfully, guarantee nothing. The size of the loss if a project fails can repeatedly, sometimes in order, exceed the costs of implementing the ideas. Therefore, the price criterion ceases to be decisive.

As you know, in the long term, the winner is the one who minimizes risks, not the one who reduces costs. On the other hand, “expensive” is not synonymous with “qualified”. When you are hiring an external team, you always pay for the “cat in the bag”, and the “tailless” of cats is determined by the method of expert estimates using well-known model: “Look at the floor, finger and ceiling”.

There are a lot of definitions of what mins a project. I believe, however, that any of the readers on their self-experience can define it. And everyone is familiar with the grim statistics: only one of the four projects to achieve their goals.

…people support each other, act on meetings, help, assist in work, experienced teaches newbies, the team gets rid of drunks, machinery is continuously improved and is improved, and scientific researchers meet the highest requirements. But when you turn it on, it doesn’t work.
M. Zhvanetsky

Every single project manager, even half asleep, will tell you what interferes with the standard implementation of the project, and what helps. So, we set measurable smart goals, a plan by a scheme, insert monitoring points, write scenarios, and manage risks. We use structured decision-making methods. “But when you turn it on and it doesn’t work”. Then we stop whole this science thing, take a baseball bat and start running the project manually. We do everything, but inexorable statistics claim that three out of four projects either not achieve the goals, or not fit into budgets, or fall out on time. Or usually, it happens all three in one. As Zhvanetsky wrote, “that with a person does not do, he will creep hard on the cemetery”. It happens because the project is a massive system of equations with a bunch of unknowns. Moreover, it is highly irrational unknown. Sidney Finkelstein conducted an extensive study, the purpose of which was to find the real causes of the most famous business disasters. And he concluded that, contrary to popular belief, people in business do not behave rationally. For example, if you propose a problem formulated as a choice concerning fifty percent gain and fifty percent loss, people make statistically different decisions.

— Why does an elephant have a tail? – So the elephant doesn’t end suddenly.
M. Zhvanetsky

Each doctor has his private cemetery. I have mine. With the single elegant gravestone, golden, with a greenish inscription: “Here lie three years and 140 thousand bucks.”

The project was done according to the rules. My teachers from AFW, bring them to see this, dropped stingy Teutonic tears in thick folders of the project proposal, project Charter, rolls Gantt charts and critical path calculations. They would look with a sharp steel look at the gloomy St. Petersburg sky, seeing somewhere where the waters of the bay close to the horizon, the majestic building of the Project. A did the tender. The Advising Board, using a matrix of structured decision-making, defined success criteria and selection criteria, approved by the contractor. More than a decent budget was allocated. However, the project died, having buried one hundred and forty thousand dollars. And my reputation as a super CIO who has never fallen projects.

There are enough uncertainties that are impossible or very expensive to remove, and that significantly affect the result. There is an excellent idea for a new product, but will consumers like it? It is necessary to make a change, but it will not cause too many centrifugal forces in the organisation. Will the employee make a positive contribution to the project, or will it only interfere? Do the interests of all interested parties coincide, or will the project be in the clinch of opposing ambitions? Is the contractor going to carry out the project? Does he have the necessary resources, or is he not up to you?

If in our house suddenly smelled of sulfur, we just do not have the right to engage in discussions about molecular fluctuations — we have to assume that somewhere near the devil showed up with horns, and take appropriate measures, up to the organisation of the production of Holy water on an industrial scale. 

Brother Strugatskies.

One of the main tasks of the Manager is to reduce uncertainty around him. Therefore, when I learned about such a method of diagnosing systemic problems as “organisational constellations”, I just started to study it. Then in a couple of years mastering, started to use. This method is well described in the literature and has been used for many years. How is it looks like? The consultant asks the client, which may be the owner or manager, to describe the problem or formulate a question. And then simulates the situation, visibly showing “what will happen if…”. For example, which of the options of the strategy to choose to get the maximum result? Is there a consensus within the organisation about the project objectives? The arrangement will not be able to answer the question “what should be done to…”. The arrangement can show “what happens if we do this”. Or “which of the available options will give the greatest effect.”

The organisation, brand, strategy options, old customers, new customers, employees are visible appears before the client. People who represent them, talk about their emotional state, feelings, whether they like these changes, or cause fear and desire to leave. In fact, the arrangement is a little “reconnaissance” to reduce uncertainty significantly. You can spend a lot of money on marketing researchers and focus groups on investigating the impact of project results on consumers or relationships in your organisation, and still stay the hostage of the used sample and the applied methods. Or you can pay a consultant-constellator, and in two or three days to see and feel this result.

Moreover, it will be the well-validated result. We have studied how this method is objective. After we noted feelings of all participants, we completely replaced the team. In 85% new participants talked about the same feelings, emotional states and preferences.

Don’t ask me, “why” it works. I don’t care. The principle of gravity is not known. But I do know that if you drop a brick and not take my foot off, it will hurt. The constellations use the so-called “phenomenological ” approach, on which all this science is based. By the way, I love foreign words. We can say “phenomenological” approach. And you can — “I say what I see”. Like all science, this approach does not deal with “why” questions. These questions are related to theology. It’s better to go to Church. Science answers the question “how ” a particular phenomenon occurs. And it happens in this way: if you invite a professional and put in large room people-representatives who represent objects, it is possible that you will have answers with 85% probability. And thereby reduce the uncertainty from those most irrational of reasons, which are not amenable to other methods.

If you are told that you are a versatile person, do not delude yourself. Maybe, it means that you bastard, scum and a parasite at the same time.
M. Zhvanetsky

Does the method have contraindications? Luckily, Yes. And quite a lot. Otherwise, it would be another “panacea”. Firstly, to apply this method, you have to be brave enough. Constellation makes the organisation transparent. One can try to cheat a polygraph. There are even specialised training courses. The constellation can’t be deceived, all the skeletons out of the closets will come out. Of course, a professional coach will handle this delicately, continually asking the client if he is ready to take the next step. And, of course, the client has the right at any time to say stop. But the risk is still there.

Secondly, the consultant should not be an employee. It is as problematic as pulling yourself out of the swamp by the hair. If you are not a Munchausen, the validity drops sharply. When I started my education, half of the students were business owners. The most unpleasant knew for them was the fact that they could help any organisation except their own.

Thirdly, the psychologists often have a feeble comprehension of business. It is entirely reasonable; the businessman is one profession, the business consultant — another, and the psychologist-constellator the third one. One can count constellators who ever worked in real business on fingers of one hand. And even business-consultant-constellators are not so much.

And finally, the constellation answers the question “what will be the result if we…”, not the question “what to do?”. Even if you understand “what to blame”, still, the managers have to offer options “what to do”. With the rare exception, when the constellation provider works or worked in real business or projects or he or she is a professional business consultant, the options will have to come up to the client.

However, the fantastic gain in the effectiveness and efficiency of this method leads to the fact that in some countries, such as Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, widely use it not only as individual therapy but also as a way to reduce uncertainty and bring order to the system and structure in business. Who knows, maybe after a short time the curse “is only one of the four project reaches the goal” go to legends of old times.

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