Would you run a Programme like this?

Democratic Process

The general election in the UK is almost upon us and we have listened to the various party leaders and their representatives make promises, blame previous administrations for inherited problems, declare policies developed on the fly, often unencumbered by fact or actual status.

But what does politics actually mean? From Wikipedia: it is from the Greek politikos and it is the practice and theory of influencing other people. It refers to achieving and exercising positions of governance — organized control over a human community, particularly a stateIt really boils down to power and influence rather than managing to a desired outcome.

Would you run a programme like this?

It made me wonder how programme delivery would fare if every few months the programme manager and large parts of the delivery team was changed based on input from observers, stakeholders even saboteurs or simply uninterested parties.

Of course in government we can argue that it’s not a “deep” change, we have the civil servants to keep the wheels of the country turning and keep everything running smoothly within the trammels of the rules and laws which of course tends to moderate change, the politicians are the the public face, the “veneer”, they are operating at the 10,000 ft level occasionally dropping down and partaking in what Ken Blanchard called “seagull management” changing priorities or direction.

If the system of party politics was employed on a programme such as Eurotunnel, 2012 Olympics, building a bridge or a new airliner, how would it fare?

We can certainly make some broad assumptions:

  • The “Benefits” to be delivered by the programme would get restated and reprioritised.
  • The programme timescales would overrun because progress and the baseline plan would be disregarded.
  • Costs would most certainly not be managed, “collective irresponsibility” would ensure that there was little regard for costs or budget.
  • The specification is very unlikely to be met because successive programme leadership would not agree on the requirement, on measured performance or even the measurement method.

From these broad assumptions it is evident that a programme run in this way would cost a lot of money, not deliver the intended benefits, overrun and not function as intended. In programme management terms it would very likely be categorised as something the programme management profession simply call “a failure”.

A Taxi Analogy

Imagine you are in central London and you hail a cab. The cab pulls over and you tell the driver where you want to go, you may even say you need to be at your destination in 15 minutes.

This is no ordinary cab though, the driver explains that every 5 minutes there will be a driver changeover, it’s an innovative idea designed to better meet the needs of the customers, and to give more drivers a job!

The interesting thing is that there are two drivers in the front like a pilot and co-pilot. You set off and the cab turns left, immediately the co-driver mutters, “oh I wouldn’t have gone this way”. At every turn the co-driver says something to demean the drivers decision.

The driver is getting irate, the co-driver is getting more vociferous perhaps because he feels it’s his turn soon. To your surprise after 5mins the cab pulls into the kerb and both drivers turn around and start pitching to you as to why they should be the driver for the next stage.

What do you do? Do you go with the current driver who had a coherent route or do you switch to the other driver who seemed to think that every turn was wrong?

Probably most of us would probably want to get out of the cab and walk, but that is not an option, you have to decide. Logically, unless you have tangible evidence that the existing driver hasn’t got “the knowledge” and that the co-driver does why would you switch drivers?

Picture Consequences aka Exquisite Corpse

There are multiple solutions to every problem but one thing is certain you can’t mix and match parts of different solutions and expect a coherent result. Remember the game of Picture Consequences where a person is drawn by folding paper in turns for head, torso, legs and feet? This is what completing a task with different decision makers looks like!

Consequences Drawing

Decisions, decisions

So what will you do, stick with the driver who planned the current route or take a gamble that the co-driver or indeed another driver has a better idea of getting you to your destination? One thing is for sure, this would not be the best way to run a programme or indeed create a masterpiece!

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