torsdag 18 april 2013

When will the understanding of projects catch up to the understanding of science?

In 1814 de Laplace described what would be known as “The demon of Laplace”. He stated that if one knew the exact state of every object in the universe one would be able to predict the exact future. Then for about 150 years scientist in all kinds of different fields like meteorology, physics, economy etc tried to predict weather, economical development and other dynamic systems. According to this theory one could skip small details since the bigger picture would overrule any small effects very small initial differences would have on the end result.

Then in 1963 Edward Lorenz described what he called “Deterministic Nonperiodic Flows”. Sounds booooring but was made known to most people as “The Butterfly-effect”. Not least by Jeff Goldblums character Dr. Ian Malcolm in the film Jurassic Park. In science it is referred to as Chaos theory today. This effectively killed all notions of small details having no effect on the end result. This happened about 50 years ago and has radically changed the way science works.

Still in each and every project most people, and particularly the stakeholders, still think that we can make a plan, predict everything and that will be gospel. We are also expected to do this plan with very limited time and resources. Then when some little detail shows up that affects the project they act surprised, want to investigate responsibility and escalate to the big chiefs why we so capitally failed in predicting this little detail. The “inquisition” brings out all their hidden toys and starts the fires. Someone has to be condemned for this utter lack of predicting everything and we have to declare our total incompetence as Galileo was forced to stand trial for the Inquisitor Maculani for his heretic teachings.

So my question is, when will there be an understanding that project managers cannot predict every little detail in a sequence of events involving a lot of people for the next months or years? No one expect a weather forecast to be exact for the next 6 months or so, everyone knows we cannot predict the currency rates in detail for the next year, so how are project managers expected to have this magical foreseeing that no one else has? Is there a secret club with a lot of old people in pointy hats and dark rituals one has to go through to be elevated to some higher form of being?  

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