A Commonplace

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29/6/2020

Contradictions

Project management is riddled with contradictions. It's part of the reason that I've called this book "Delivering the Impossible." Which is a contradiction in itself, but also highlights another contradiction.

Contradiction # 1

If something is possible, it doesn't sound exciting enough to be the kind of thing that gets funded. If something is impossible, it sounds like a thing worth striving for and funding

In his book "The Innovation Algorithm" Genrich Altshuller claims that the most important kinds of innovations are those where we can find some way of removing a contradiction and that many other, lesser innovations come from figuring out how to manage contradictions that we can't figure how to remove.

Of course, you might imagine that the first step in any process of managing contradictions, would be to identify them. So that's what I'm going to try to do here. But in the process of doing that, right from the start, I'm going to point out this contractions.

Contradiciton # 2

In order to manage contradictions (to be a good manager), they need to be indentified Pointing out contradictions feels like an aggressive, confrontational, obnoxious thing to do - the kind thing a bad manager would do

I'm giving these contradictions, because, in my experience, they are slippery things.

Contradiction # 3 - "The Chicken Soup" paradox (I'll explain later)

The harder you work to deliver a project the more information you gather about why that project is not deliverable in the form that it is originally expressed.

This is connected to another contradiction that we've talked about

Contradiction # 4 - The "Agreed Activity" paradox.

The way of working that feels safest and most comfortable to the team is one which reduces the chances of the team delivering the project. A way of working that feels slightly uncomfortable for the team is most likely to deliver the project, but it's also the most likely to get the team or the project manager removed from the project.

Contradiction # 5 - The "tech debt" paradox

The faster you go, the slower you will be going, until you stop

Contradiction #6 - The "Wreck of an idea" paradox

Software that starts to deliver value on an the initial idea of a project is likely to be so feeble and cost so much, that the developers don't want to show it and the clients don't want to look at it.

Contradiction #7 - The software development methodology selling paradox

Software development is a risky, messy and emotional business, which is why there is such market for methodologies that pretend it is low risk, clean and logical.