Recessions sometimes have a Silver Linings

Posted by Kevin Brady on Sat 23rd May 2009 at 03:56 PM, Filed in Project /Programme FailuresIndustry News

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After a break spending sometime on designing an upgrade to the current Clarety site (to be released towards the end of this year) I am now back doing what I enjoy and that is writing for Clarety.
A lot has happened in the world since my last post. The credit crunch now looks more like a depression than a recession with few solutions other than a battening down of hatches and riding out the coming storm of rising unemployment and corporate failures.

Despite this backdrop I feel the changes in the world economy will have a positive effect on the world of Project and Programme Management. This I believe will take place through changes in people’s attitudes as they deal with its consequences.

This view point was developed whilst listening to a political and economic broadcast by the World Service. The discussion was about “How World Economic Booms are bad for Democracy”. The key message of the broadcast was that during economic booms people with full bellies are far more tolerant of dictatorships, political corruption, reduced transparency and the increased use of spin. Many examples of this move away from democracy were given, ranging from Moa’s “Iron Rice Bowl” to the current British Government with its politicisation of the Police and the Judiciary in ways that would have seemed impossible some 20 years ago. The broadcast pointed out that with the coming depression, people would be less tolerant of politicians who are corrupt, or tell untruths. The view was that this change in attitudes will unseat a number of governments around the world as people demand increasing transparency and honesty from their rulers. Obama’s election in the States was cited as perhaps the beginning of this tidal wave of change.

I believe this coming social and political change will have a wider impact on the world of commerce and especially Project & Programme Management than one might think. It is my firm belief that one of the biggest reasons for project and programme failure is the growth of “Spin Management”. I explained this phenomena in an early article entitled Get Sacked Path to Project Success and in the supporting article for our popular management selection checklist Anti-Spin Management Checklist. In the later article I explain how to guard against spin management through the careful recruitment of delivery focused project /programme managers. When writing these articles I new in my heart that spin management was here to stay, and indeed was likely to be on the ascendance. As long as companies have increasing cash flow /profitability failing projects can easily be passed off as successes, and their costs simply absorbed and buried in company accounts without anyone getting the sack or loosing face.  Furthermore as along as shareholders keep receiving dividends and the financial forecasts match market expectation then we have a real “who cares situation”. I am sure many CIO /CTO’s in private felt the following during these more affluent times:-

“Who needs managers with risk and issue management, bottom-up planning, earned value and detailed status reporting which only serves to churn up Project /Programme performance failings in a vein attempt to embarrass our way to successful project /programme outcomes?”.

However, I believe times are changing and spin managers are now going to find life a little more difficult. Professional Project /Programme Managers with a focus on delivery through team work and transparency (risk /issue management etc) are the kinds of managers cash strapped organisations are going to be increasingly seeking in coming years. The only problem with this welcome change is the many of these kinds of Project /Programme managers I know have made career changes in order to escape the wall of spin management ripping their projects and programmes apart.

Let’s hope the “Jedi” can be encouraged back into the profession and give this depression a silver lining.

Let’s hope I am right.

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