Saturday, August 17, 2019

Project narrative


Agile leans heavily on the idea of "the narrative" or "epoch"; other methodologies speak of strategic outcomes and value statements. In any form there is the inference of "the" narrative, as though there is only one arching aiming point for the project.

Not so fast!
Not all might agree; alas, there might be (are you ready for this?) disagreements regarding the value statement, narrative, or needed outcomes

"But seeing our disagreements through the lens of narrative might get us closer to a crucial insight -- which is that in a big, diverse, and complicated [project], multiple narratives can be true all at once"
Ross Douthat
Political observer
Likely true, but what do we do with it? 
For one thing, if the word "narrative" is understood to be "agenda" in some circumstances, then the first thing to do is to separate the "agenda narratives" which are largely political from the "functional narratives" which are more traditionally aligned with the scope-resource-schedule-quality drivers.

Each narrative class has its own (balanced) scorecard and project balance sheet: outcomes balanced by resource and risk

Who's in charge?
In the beginning ....
In the beginning, the agenda (read: political) narratives may be supreme:
  • Buy America first
  • Buy best value, or buy best price?
  • Be first!
  • Be dominant
 But then there are the project practicalities that push against the political agenda:
  • Buy America? You can't get them here: Most essential rare-earth minerals come from abroad, and most from China
  • Price? "My only concern is that this system was built by the lowest bidder" Astronaut
  • First is best? See: Netscape (the business model didn't work in the long term)
  • Dominance, but not at the expense of nimble (Netflix vs Blockbuster, both originally in the CD business)
Your role?
All of the above: politician (to get things rolling), and project manager (to make sure the roll is successful).
And "you" may be a small team; it's rare to get a supremely good politician and manager in the same package (See  "Ike" Eisenhower and George Marshall two of the best politician-managers)



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