Saturday, January 29, 2011

Bigger is easier

David Brooks had an interesting piece this month on the theme of "Bigger is Easier", meaning: big bold ideas are oft times easier to get approved and underway because smaller initiatives are easier to understand and therefore attract many who 'think they know' and all but kill the idea with analysis and discussion and debate.

My experience bears out his thesis. Only, my example is "the bicycle rack". If ever you want to get your local governance to approve a bicyle rack for a public facility, or a public conveyance, you'll understand too. Everyone can understand a bicycle rack; everyone has an opinion, and everyone often wants to join in the debate, if only to 'see and be seen'.

I've been a part of a number of very large and nationally important projects. The 'bigger the easier' is certainly true. On the big picture stuff, most people will sign up. But, start disaggregating down to the bicycle rack level and all manner of 'staffers' get involved.

Then, the inevitable round of 'staffing' begins. This is the term used to describe the process of briefing a principal's staff, then briefing the principal in private so unwitting and unflattering questions can be addressed, and then taking the whole show public when all the private work is done.

The speed of the process is inverse to the size of the issue. Billions are often easier than a few million, sorry to say.

Nevertheless, many project management hours go into this kibuki dance in order to get through the tribal protocols.

Sometimes I say: God help us!

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