Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Theory of the Mosaic

And so we have the "Theory of the Mosaic", which roughly told is given by this:

From many disparate and small bits, hiding in public and knowable to those who seek, comes a revelation of the larger idea and greater knowledge

This is much more than just seeing the forest in the presence of trees; this is finding the trees in the first place, and then placing them in context, in juxtaposition, and in relationship so that not only the forest, but all the attributes and nuances of the forest are revealed.

Project management?

You betcha!

The proposal project

Let's begin with the competition to win new business. Bidding competitively is a project in itself; it's only after you win that the execution project begins.

One of the tools used by practitioners of the Theory of the Mosaic is the "expert network". These are the relationships that extend in myriad directions and trade "bits" in the marketplace of knowledge [sometimes rumor or conjecture]. In competition, the network extends not only to the potential customer, but to the customer's customer, regulator, appropriator, and suppliers. It even extends to the direct competition. How many of us have sat down with our direct competitor for a chat about the 'opportunity'?

Assembling all this information [in many cases, just bits of data, not even information] into a narrative that can be then transformed--through the proposal process--into a WBS, cost, schedule, and performance promise for a winning offer is no small task and requires all the discipline and commitment to an objective that is the mark of successful project management.

Of course, one of the tenants of the Theory is that information is hiding in public. Expert networks to ferret out the public information is the secret to success. Usually, there is a bright line--that is, no peek at proprietary competitive information that is unethical or illegal is permitted--but often the line gets blurred, the rules change [sometimes in mid-stream], or international ambiguity [read: culture] mislevels the playing field.

Guardianship of such corruption is no small matter. Just refer to the infamous USAF refueling tanker competition for many "don't do this" examples.

The execution project

No project of any scale operates without interpersonal relationships, a dollop of politics, and the obscure actions of many people working on their part. Enter: "expert networks". The project manager for sure, work stream managers, and cost account managers all 'work their networks': up and out to the sponsors, and down and in to the worker-bees.

Assembling the mosaic

For those experienced in brainstorming, assembling a mosiac from an expert network is really no different.

First, the science:
Like items are grouped
Relationships are labeled
Sequencing is labeled
Small items are grouped under bigger items
Gaps are identified; gap filler plans are formulated
Narrative headlines are written

Then, the art:
Interpretations are made; the 'big picture' emerges from the 'pixels'
Importance and urgency are weighed
Actionable 'intelligence' is separated for execution plans

Finally: act on the intelligence!

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