Monday, July 20, 2015

Don't proceed beyond the evidence ...

John LeCarre's man Smiley, George Smiley, was probably never a project manager. Nonetheless, he has this advice for decision making with uncertainty:
"It had been one of Smiley's cardinal principles in research .... not proceed beyond the evidence. A fact, once logically arrived at, should not be extended beyond it's natural significance"
John LeCarre, "A murder of quality"

Now, of course, there are no facts about the future, only estimates. Ooops! for the #Noestimates crowd, I guess the future is a blank slate.

There's a couple of take away's here:
The first point -- actionable for all project managers -- is maintain context and domain. Extending either context or transferring domain may well render the "fact" not a fact at all. After all, there are only facts in history, so the context of history is important for interpreting the facts in light of the present situation and the anticipated future. And, a fact in one domain, may not be applicable to another domain at all.

Another point -- again actionable every day -- is don't embellish the facts to fit the circumstances. Who's not gotten into trouble when the embellishments don't hold up? The fastest way to lose the trust of your colleagues is to be an "embellisher". More often, strange as it seems, reality is often impressive enough right off the shelf.

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