Category Archives: D

D is for… Dunning Kruger*

This one is an official, scientific observation. But it’s so good, it merits a mention here.

The premise is pretty straight-forward. But, we’re going to paraphrase here, so check the Wikipedia definition if you want the science bit.

Intelligent people are clever enough to understand they are fallible and may sometimes get it wrong; they can doubt themselves and their judgement on occasion, but often in a disproportionate or misplaced fashion.

However, those who may lack the necessary knowledge or intelligence related to the position they hold often have a disproportionate amount of self-confidence; they have little or no self-doubt in their decisions or actions and in fact have mistaken confidence in their own abilities.

In summary; Idiots think they are brilliant because they are not clever enough to understand what Good Guys can spot in an instant.

* All credit to David Dunning and Justin Kruger of Cornell University for their observations and definition of the effect.

D is for… Directing Traffic

On a recent trip to India*, I observed a strange phenomenon that has a parallel with pointless Project Managers. I saw a great number of people, mainly in uniforms, whose sole function seemed to be to wave people in the direction they were going anyway.

This was particularly prevalent in the airport, but was also seen a lot with traffic on the street. You could argue that there was job was to be there in case of incident, but it merely looked liked the were waving their arms to give the appearance of adding value to the situation.

You get a lot of Project Managers like that. Watch out for them. They have no input of their own so, instead, they give the appearance that they are giving direction but, in reality, they are only waving people in the direction they were going anyway.

Agreeing with other people’s decisions, sending out emails saying “Yes, I agree, do that.”, is not managing, its just waving people towards a door that is already clearly sign-posted. Don’t do it. You look like a fool.

* I’m not suggesting this only happends in India, its just where I saw it and had the thought.

D is for… Dambuster

You will invariably find, as you go about your trade, many people who will try to put obstacles in your way. You know the sort, those workshy fops that will try to hide behind process, officialdom and “You’ll need to raise a request before I can look at that” or “I can’t do anything about that without a signoff from network security”.

This can slow your project down considerably, especially when you encounter a cluster of process junkies all quoting form numbers and obscure request systems. You can quickly end up being flipped around form department to department like a pinball, especially if you have the audacity to suggest to them, “go on, bend the process just this once”, or worse, “just feckin’ do it!”.

Most red tape is black and white
Most red tape is black and white

Make it your business to understand all of the methods of request, the times to use them and have all the tools installed to allow you to do it. Make contact with the people who are approvers for the various things you will need, eg. security, networks, telephony, sys admin, DBA’s etc.

Then you can use your dambuster skills to quickly and easily break through those process log-jams and achieve what you need with the minimum of disruption to your project.

So, the next time some wastrel of a jobsworth says, “You’ll need to raise form C2634 in triplicate and have the yellow copy signed off by a purple unicorn”, you can be back at his desk 30 seconds later, smiling as you hand it over and say, “So when will it be done?”.

Of course a good-guy would never use process to slow down or prevent progress elsewhere, even for fun. Well, not to another good-guy anyway.

D is for… Damage Limitation

Let’s face it, even if you are a good guy and you put all the best-practice you learn from this guide into your life, things are going to go wrong sometime. Of course this is 99% likely to have been caused by external influences, because of course everything under your control will be, well… under control.

This is where knowing what you are doing comes into play. You will of course have seen it coming, your awareness of all the information available to you will have primed you. The earlier you see it coming, the more time you have to formulate your plan of action to turn the ‘problem’ into an opportunity for the benefit of your project.

The key is to be as up-front with the problem and your proposed solution (don’t forget that bit) as it is sensible to do, and to the right people, at the right time. No point in telling your Financial Director that your project needs an extra $500k, because someone forgot you might have to pay for software licenses, on a Friday afternoon, in the middle of his month-end reporting. He is likely to and, in fact legally entitled to rip-you-a-new-one before you even get to the end of the sentence.

You need to be all over the problem as soon as you see it coming, and find ways to limit the pain that is likely to be coming down the line. Consider carefully your options, and the rest of this guide will give you plenty of ideas; Can you change control it? Can you do it another way? Can you sell it as a better way to do it? Can you call in favours? Can you get someone else to carry the can? The more experience you have, the more creative you will get.

Sometimes it’s better to hold your hand up early and take your lumps then, than wait till the issue reaches its full magnitude and get a bigger kicking then. After all, it’s hard to be hung twice for the same thing.