Monday, September 3, 2012

The case for contradiction

Abraham Lincoln said that a house divided against itself cannot stand. He was right about slavery, but the maxim doesn’t apply to much else. In general, the best people are contradictory, and the most enduring institutions are, too
David Brooks

So, if Brooks thinks the best and brightest are often self-contradictory, and institutions that last and endure are also, what do we make of this when we scale it project management?
  • Can we support de-centralized and centralized in the same project, say for change management?
  • Can we support agile and traditional methods in the same project, say for different technologies?
  • Can we support self-managing teams and intervene with the team leader selection?
  • Can we promote the principal of subsidiarity and yet insist on weekly reports?
  • Can sponsors insist on risk management, and yet deny funding to follow-through with risk response? 
Well, of course, the answer to all of these is 'yes', with conditions. We can be contradictory in tactics yet be strategically coherent in direction.

For example, a project can be strategically coherent about tolerating change, but yet apply different tactics---decentralized and centralized CM---seemingly contradictory tactics, according to circumstances.

So, I see Brooks point, and I agree that it's wasteful, certainly not lean, and probably counterproductive to be hard-over on tactics in order to have a seeming harmony with strategy. Be aware: It's possible to tack away from the mark (tactics) and still get to the mark first (strategic objective)