Sunday, September 1, 2013

Dr. Will on earned value

Dr. (George F.) Will mostly writes about politics and baseball -- and mostly about unwarranted constraints on freedom.  He never writes about earned value.

So, I was struck by this passage which made me think immediately of the earned value examiners that used to descend from Washington onto my projects, foretelling gloom and doom

"Studying history serves [governance] by highlighting contingencies: Things [do not] need to turn out the way they did; choices matter. Since Hegel, Marx and other 19th-century philosophers decided that history is History — a proper noun, an autonomous force unfolding an inner logic — humanity has been told that vast, impersonal forces dictate events, nullifying human agency. But they don’t. Choices matter."
Dr. George F. Will

OMG, choices matter! Said another way: History does not dictate the future when human agency (thoughtful action) is applied.

And that brings us to earned value (I'm a supporter, but only to a point), the value of which is a forecast -- which, by the way, is not a certain outcome -- of where we may go based on where we've recently been. For purposes of the forecast, efficiencies, are presumed constant (over the near-term future) and presumed to be the coefficients of the future.

Of course, efficiencies are not constant -- we just want them to be. That's the paradox of earned value. Efficiencies are influenced by the quality of requirements, the effectiveness of environment, and the competence and willingness and commitment of staff,

Consequently, the outside analysts come with their forecasts of a project in trouble (which may be true) but no solutions (except change the efficiencies). And, of course, that is exactly where human agency comes in: DO SOMETHING (FDR's words) to affect a change.

In other words, an earned value moment of analysis becomes an inflection point. The efficiencies going into the analysis are not the efficiencies coming out-- by choice and by action.

But, earned value has served its purpose: to warn of a need for change, not to forecast the eventual outcome.

Check out these books I've written in the library at Square Peg Consulting