“It isn’t fair”

– Retrospective Changes to MPs’ Allowances

“It isn’t fair” Britain’s MPs are saying.  Well, – Shift Happens!

Whilst many of us feel a distinct sense of schadenfreude at MPs having to repay what we see as unreasonable expense claims, there are a few, fair minded folk, who share their sense of injustice.  “It just is not fair to change the rules at the end of the game,” they say.

I think I’m one of them.  I like to know what the rules are so I can moan about them.  Then, I knuckle down and figure out how to work within them – albeit, as close to the boundary as I can get.

Then, I put on my project manager’s hat.  Because for us, fairness and rules are not part of our world.  Shift happens and it often isn’t fair.  It’s just the universe kicking us from behind and reminding us that we are not in charge.  So we don’t moan (except in the pub) and we don’t feel happy when it happens to our colleagues (except in the pub).  Instead, we get down and manage the changes.

When talking about projects, one of the questions I am most commonly asked is how to deal with the client, or the boss, or the sponsor moving the goal posts.  A good change control process is vital, but for me the real answer comes right at the start of the project: how have you anchored those goal posts in the first place?  It seems to me there are three types of fixing.

Let’s get going and figure it out as we go along

This is the project management equivalent of a pair of jumpers.  The goal posts are just where we put them and there is no certainty where they are really supposed to be.  Don’t be surprised when someone picks them up and moves them – or even takes them away.  An adequate approach for a kick around in the park.

Let’s sit down and write out our scope and then start planning

Now it’s as if we’ve got a couple of sticks and we’ve bashed them into the ground with a shoe.  This is a pretty good approach if your project will get done quickly and the impact it will have on your stakeholders is minimal.

Let’s work with our stakeholders to define exactly what we need

Cementing the goal posts into the ground does not preclude someone from coming along with a digger, but it will certainly make them think about it carefully before they do.  This approach works when you have a significant project and you want to avoid un-necessary change down the line.

So what about our MPs?  It seems like the system they designed was little more than a couple of sticks bashed in the ground.  They thought about the system they wanted, giving little thought to what the voters might consider fair.  After all, you can argue about how much it is right to pay your gardener, but how many people are in jobs where they can get their gardener paid for by their employer?

The “so what?”

Talk to your stakeholders, find out what they want, what they need and what they care about, negotiate hard, take the time, secure matching resources… or go back and re-negotiate with your stakeholders, then publish a scope and objectives that everyone has contributed to.

Oh, and have a good change control process as well!


2 thoughts on ““It isn’t fair”

  1. Pingback: Twitter Trackbacks for “It isn’t fair” « Shift Happens! [mikeclayton.wordpress.com] on Topsy.com

  2. Pingback: Monday Morning Links – 19th October : How to Manage a Camel – Project Management and Recruitment

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