💩 Cancel culture or a dirty protest 🪧

I suspect my decision to deactivate my Twitter account will be almost universally unnoticed. But occasionally it feels good to just severe ties. To see enacted sociopathic attitude, malevolent intentions, and belief so opposed to my own that it was time to pull the plug.

Bye bye Twitter. You were my least liked platform of misinformation, anyway. Bye bye to the baiters, the denigrators, and the hateful propagators. And thank you Ego Must for making such an overt effort to confirm the lack of humanity and humility by such an exemplary disregard for care. I understand the reasoning but deplore whole heartedly the callousness – the classlessness – in how the deed was done.

Those were human beings waiting for those emails. How ridiculous that redundancy pantomime was.

Get yourself to Mars, Elon. You’ll be happier alone…

Random invites

Three reasons random invites fail, and why you should be worried if they succeed…

This blog is prompted by a noted increase in the number of random invite connections received on LinkedIn this month. I love connecting with new people, but some basics can be identified which seem to offer a universal truth.

visibility | behaviour | trust

I conclude this is principally a question of trust. But this connects to visibility, and to behaviour, with both necessarily increased if trust is to be found.

v | b | trust

Random invites. Context free and no prior history. Unless of course they can find you off-guard, but that is intent (i.e., behavioural) which should be inviting more than distrust because of the hidden truth that reveals (i.e., visibility).

v | behaviour | t

This is the behaviour of someone in a rush; or grouping you with many others; or hiding their intentions, concealing their real identity, and/or attempting to appeal to vanity where the less information offered is enabling more directed distraction. As such invites are also more likely part of a cluster, this offered more indicators that the invitation is intended for spamming or farming or otherwise hidden intent (i.e., purposeful low visibility)

visibility | b | t

This random invite is offering minimal visibility. With no note to bring to attention toward the intent of the invite. Less information, offering more uncertainty. Or targeted information without intended subterfuge (i.e., negative behaviour). Perhaps this is overtly using a profile title or photo image to attempt to skip past checks. Note how much more suspicious it is when with minimal extra effort you reveal there is limited information in the profile to offer context.

These are three categories to consider why random invites fail. Low trust, reinforced by minimal information or positive action.

The intentional deceit. And so what of covert attempts to overcome these signals? When might these random invites succeed? How about appealing to that covert side of our own behaviour, using that same overtly visible shallowness against us. Why might that work? I think deep down, we all know. It’s the means to override our more attuned sense of when to trust. Am I alone in being doubly suspicious when an unnecessarily dressed up face wants to say hello? Too right, I am. And if you are selling yourself by your image, that’s precisely the unsaid term I have just used. Without apology. Without limitation to ones preferences or bias. There are plenty doing this from all sides. These seem to me the most common-sense flags to avoid the many fake accounts that overtly play this game.

Examples of invite warning signs:

  • reliance upon shallow appeal (e.g., photo, title, pod followership)
  • offering little in way of content or prior chat
  • nothing relatable in profiles
  • industry or geography that seems completely left field

The interaction of visibility | behaviour | trust

So let me finally return to that telling lack of a note. That should say plenty. Why would you think someone is going to accept an invitation without a note that has something that connects you?

Conversely, I do actually send invitations without a note. But only because prior discussion has made that blatantly unnecessary. But then that’s increased trust, built via prior visibility and relatable behaviours.

Trust is built upon these principles, but should also be where it is lost…

Change control

…review structures and processes that could make a difference…

Lindsay Hoyle – Speaker of the House

This is a quote from today’s news. In my project world this kind of review is about matching the framework to the range of influence it intends to control. From the world of insuring construction projects I observe this matching of control to need is not done well. In project management academia I think we miss this point when considered holistically. In psychology this assessment of behaviour to aid control is understood in part, but typically only observed in simple settings and in a lab.

Sir Lindsay wrote: “In my opinion, it is time to consider radical action, and review structures and processes that could make a difference…”

“…serious allegations have been made, and we must address them as a matter of urgency. It is imperative we do the right thing by staff and MPs as well.”

BBC “Westminster reform: Lindsay Hoyle and Andrea Leadsom call for urgent changes” 1st May 2022

How control, influence, and intended change interact is what my research is all about. I am researching this in projects of construction. It is what I do in my consulting work. It is how I now orientate my own life.

At its heart, my research is directed toward a simple explanation that enables us all to ask more…

v | b | t

Here are some simple metrics of in applying this to the question of Parliament:

v | b | trust

We are directed toward lost trust. Where there is failed intent, we trust less. Establishing better frameworks for the intended change seems to me the sensible first assumed move to make. It is how to enable the electorate and the stewardship that serves us to regain some shared trust.

v | behaviour | t

We are addressing self-serving behaviour being empowered to serve itself. We are required to challenge innate motivations and compare what is happening to what is required. It instils the accountability of decision-makers and removes the defensive-decision making they hide behind. But more than that it so considers the suitability of their agendas, their capacity and capability, their judgement and the support systems they need. So that leaders can be what they intended to be, as servants to us all; not have what they intended to have, as servants to themselves.

visibility | b | t

We are seeking better visible to us all. An electorate that currently just has visibility of the indifference shown by the power-base. Visibility of deceit, misinformation, and calculations of what needs to said rather than what needs to be done. Legislation passed to protect past error in response to the questions we ask. Repeating evidence of leadership being the opposite of integrity and in not leading by example. What is needed is greater clarity on what is being intended. What vision is being worked towards. And what independent governance from independent source, ensures accountability of all.

Three possible latent origins of failure

Across each of these metrics we appear to have a failing framework of control in government. Beyond the personalities and party colours of the day, it is to our Administration that we should expect permeant control. I see three likely sources of failure that allow the wrong influences to reign:

1. the control of the internal system is failing

2. failure in the policing, the governance, or assurance of appropriate control

3. the clarity of intended change and to whom benefit is the primary goal

Either way the framework needs to have measure of all. Able to have account of all influences redirecting intended change. Thereby protecting the collectively agreed goals and/or the means to adapt such goal to the novelty of new or that which was previously unknown.

Projects | Within Projects

Whether in politics, or in charges of failure by the United Nations or World Health Organisation. Whether we are considering major projects like HS2 or Crossrail. If we are focused on decisions of priority to feed the hungry, or house the homeless, prevent needless bloodshed; or empower the entrepreneur, realign relationships with Europe, intervene in Ukraine, tackle climate change; or ensure our own growth upon a polluted home. Or, if we are addressing our personal purpose and how best to get there. All such intended change requires the appropriate selection of control, and account for all actor interests that may influence this goal for better or worse.

At its core, that is what is being called for here. At its heart, I contend that this is what we are all really asking for.

PhD and me

Learning by doing

I had to give this one a try. It came to my attention too late but I tried anyway. My first PhD proposal has now been submitted. Let the learning begin.

Written in three days is not the ideal preparation. But as a forced period of solid focus and serious questioning of what I’m trying to contribute as research and how it fits to wider academic research overall, was useful reminders of what it’s all for. My passion lives here. I just hope that shines through.

18 pages of my heart and soul. A baseline reset that serves as a useful confirmation that my research, my study, my consulting, and my life choices, all still sit well upon long-term goals.

That’s a good weekend, come what may. Learnt much by learning how much more I have yet to do.

If I had my time again I’d {insert here}

Finding your project

Finding my project

visibility | behaviour | trust

It took me quite some mental rebuilding before I was able to look this question in the eye. Not a day goes by now that I am not reminded of my answer. My answer from asking the right version of myself. It has become my means of innate motivation, intention, direction, and goal. It is how I have defined my project.

For me this is the visibility I needed. To what I direct my behaviours. What gives me a regained trust in myself. From which I have built critical controls to both enable and protect my project goal. From which I now proceed, mindful of external influence, and internal need.

What does this question mean to you?

Projects | within projects

Mistakes were made…

…scapegoats will be blamed

Is it possible to see through the manoeuvring that is intended to pass on blame? Particularly when distraction is involved. The origin of the scapegoat suggests we have been societally accepting of this idea throughout history. Accountability must be retained in high office. Prime Ministers and NHS Trusts showing us why we need more transparency and power to intervene.

The original “scapegoat”

This quotation is from Karen Armstrong 2014, “Fields of Blood : Religion and the history of violence”

“Every year in ancient Israel the high priest brought two goats into the Jerusalem temple on the Day of Atonement. He sacrificed one to expiate the sins of the community and then laid his hands on the other, transferring all the misdeeds on to its head, and sent the sin-laden animal out of the city, literally placing the blame elsewhere.

In this way, Moses explained “the goat will bear all their faults away with it into the desert place”. In his classic study René Girard argued that the scape goat ritual defused rivalries among groups with the community. In similar way, I believe, modern society has made a scape goat of faith”

Leadership scapegoats

I give leadership a hard time. Occasionally I step back and ask myself if I am in-fact just projecting my own failings onto others. But not today. Today I am in full rant.

I think we have seen several protracted attempts at such deflection in the headlines today. Leaders who may claim to be victim. Political scapegoats. Alternatively, the case can be made that they themselves have been found to be creating distance to invite a future scapegoat in.

Example one, who is preparing whom for the blame here in party-gate, part IX?

Mr Raab said the PM had updated Parliament “to the best of his knowledge and his understanding

BBC article here

Is that really the party line? Surely, there is at no point opportunity for leadership to claim this final defence for withholding information – “I didn’t know” – that is not an excuse when you are in charge.

I have argued before that accountability is immovable from the highest office. In this instance, failure to check equals failure to act. That is failure as the servant of the people you represent. Accountability of the senior decision-maker is really that simple. With rightful blame attached.

But what concerns me here is the potential impact if Boris is seen to be a scapegoated leader, because it offers permission to leave all else unchanged. Boris is a scoundrel, and he must go – but what is stopping the next being just the same? We need change – but the system is as much to blame.

visibility | behaviour | trust

First, another example of the ease with which this can be flagged (if we are so inclined). Back to some basic heuristics to check the situation against.

visibility | b | t

A leader who is unable to present clarity because of a failure to look, is acting with neglect by turning the blind eye, or conveniently choosing not ask. We can see this, so should the governance that keeps their decision-making abilities defined.

v | behaviour | t

This persistent behaviour is self-serving. It enables the personal defence of a child. Except this is not a playground. “I didn’t know”, is responded to simply with, “Well you were expected to. It is your job to know.” We can back this up with clarity of permitted and expected processes in senior role.

v | b | trust

Once a failure to perform is highlighted, so inherent trust is eroded. A little lost trust, or perhaps in totality. Either way, this prompts a change.

Any manager will know this. If you have people responsibilities you will know this. The underperformer is now necessarily more closely managed. In 2022 may be in performance reviews, or perhaps the introduction of a performance improvement plan, disciplinary action, or in extreme situations in termination. This may be necessary for the good of the wider team. It may only be fair to them if lesser performance is managed this way. But we culpable too, at least in part, if the right training, the right resourcing, adequate empowerment and oversight offered, and clarity of internal processes that are regularly checked to ensure they reflect what is needed as critical controls.

Anyone with client responsibilities will know this. Any client relationship can reflect this building or loss of trust. A supply chain partner may have contractual remedy or legal ramification ( particularly if there was no trust but contracts enabled trade). Better trust however is built when closer relationships are being fostered. Better trust that goes both ways.

In all cases increased visibility, or corrective behaviour, are required now that we have less trust.

What should support the assumed trust, is the checking. The processes of assurance that may be line manager, peer review, stage gate approval, which is then further supported by spot checking or audit that is expected is actually coming through. How often do we see a lack of governance, procedure, or level of independent challenge meaning things are missed?

I speak at length about this in construction. This is more than dealing with assumed error, this is also adding value as that extra pair of eyes. “I didn’t know” as a leader is to reflect the failure to be aware. Why trust the leader who clearly does not care? This is the leader who is not serving you.

More scandalous dereliction of leadership

Another headline grabber today. This one a National disgrace that has been known of for years. This is the conclusions of catastrophic failures of management detailed in Ockenden report. Also see here, the BBC summary outlining the Shrewsbury and Telford NHS Trust. This is twenty years of negligent leadership, no doubt set against a backdrop of chronic underfunding. Funding however can be no excuse. I am tempted to see this as a twenty year reign of outrageous intimidation and deceit. Worrying in of itself, but it is not standalone to this one Trust – or should we say the antithesis of the word trust.

“The reasons for these failures are clear,” she said. “There were not enough staff, there was a lack of ongoing training, there was a lack of effective investigation and governance at the trust and a culture of not listening to the families involved.”

BBC report dated today {here} quoting the enquiry leader, the remarkable midwife come archetypal bastion of wisdom, Julie Ockenden

This behaviour by this Trust, is absolute failure of the stewardship we demand. Whether they see it coming or not, this must prompt wider change. No leaders gets to say “I didn’t know”, or “I was badly advised”. Not when babies were needlessly dying, and senior people still refused to look, listen, or believe the findings of 8 separate expert opinions, or the bravery and tenacity of the bereaved.

No to delegated accountability

In my opinion, these two very different leadership failures bring us to the same place. Accountability stays at the top, irrespective of whether each and every leader who came and went from this Board of Trustees chose to look. Regardless of whether a PM chose to ask the most basic of questions, and opt to rely upon the defence of “I didn’t know”. And let me be clear, I think Boris did know and does know – but that needs not be debated if we can simply call out the failure in his claims that he at no stage asked.

It is the same with the Board of Trustee. Theirs is the final decision, based upon visibility of any information gap they are prepared to accept. Theirs is the behaviour permitted to turn a blind-eye or to scapegoat staff. Theirs was the opportunity to act and ensure risk, internal control and assurance were functioning as they should. This is the trust we put in them.

I have offered a detailed argument as to why accountability as a concept is best understood if it is deemed only ever upwardly visible {here}. If seniority is permitted to deflect accountability this is when behaviours are free to become distanced from risk, trust can be abused, and visibility intentionally obfuscated. Focus can be distracted toward secrecy, decision parameters hidden, poor leadership rewarded as if good. The solutions are already available, these answers are not new. Existing management theory exists to enable this, with just a modest tweak in making accountability anchored, whilst responsibility moves.

These are the fundamentals of our leaders being our chief-administrators, and being responsible for the control environments that we all rely upon. I sometimes wonder if the administrative realities of leadership are somehow forgotten by some, or perhaps never learnt. There is a reason that the MBA qualification in management has administration attached to the name. There is reason that high office is called the Administrative function. Accountability lives here, whether understood or not.

Let’s get back to managing our leaders – accountability is to blame

We may well have made faith our modern scapegoat, and Armstrong’s arguments in her 2014 book is compelling. I would venture further still. 21st Century political leadership, and indeed invisible and unaccountable leadership in all forms, must be reframed. They are not scapegoats, they are rightly to blame. Failing to acknowledge this is making a scapegoat of us all.

The sucker punch

Hidden malevolent intent

Surprise attacks are effective because they take advantage of situational dissonance, i.e., actions by one party not anticipated by the other. Without offering much detail of events, I attempted to give this some thought across three media events that caught the headlines yesterday.

  • A slap in the face
  • Poison served as peace
  • Safe harbours no more for employment law pirates.
P&Ouch (created via MSWord)

Here I attempt to talk in terms of all three within categorical parameters I am using elsewhere to described project relationships

v | b | t

Hopefully familiar to anyone reading my blogs regularly, these are the interrelationship variables that represent a shared or separate set of interests namely, visibility | behaviour | trust. In the surprise move, we have:

  • One party disguising their intent (visibility | behaviour)
  • The other party perceiving no threat from the first (trust)

Additional factors in play

This gives me cause to revisit other factors in play in assessing threat. These are factors I have identified previously in the context of projects. Each seems to apply equally well here.

Influence – as Action Potential

Think of this as the spectrum of possible behaviours of each of the two or more parties. Typically dynamic, and therefore changeable over time. These are matters such as intent, motivation, belief, by which one party may find reason to choose or feel compelled to direct their energy. In neuroscience this is Action Potential. It is measured at cellular or neuronal level, but perhaps is an apt description between situational actors as well.

Right arena, right rules

In each of the three examples here, we have a definable space, and conventions that apply. The examples here:

  • confines of a spotlight;
  • a banner of truce;
  • legal employment frameworks deemed to be breakable rules.

But if we have the wrong arena in mind, we may have the wrong rules to apply. This highlights the importance of perspective or modal clarity.

What this additionally highlights is a threat to one actors safety, enabled because the wrong arena has been assumed. In these examples:

  • a single safe spotlight becoming a shared stage;
  • a table of negotiators but needing to see a wider arena concealing snipers, poisoners, or media spin:
  • a marketplace as a transport operator but finding safe harbour no more

Control environment

We have the perceived safety of a control environment therefore proved false:

  • A comedian’s sanctuary to say anything without reproach;
  • Rules of combat that may not prevail under a banner of diplomatic truce;
  • Legal rights of employees, legal expectations of ship owner and port authority.

Dynamics of change

To which we can then revisit influence and the appropriateness of control. Perhaps these two factors can be linked as situational awareness. Influence as an observable variable, positively or negatively directional towards self-interest or shared goal. To which the assessment of totality of range of possible behaviours, and appropriateness of controls can then be compared.

v | Behaviour as covert action | t

I need to now extend the range of behaviour. Not only is self-interest vs shared interest now possible. We now have shared interest defaulting to self-interest deteriorating to intentional harm of another. This requires visibility to be intentionally obfuscated and an illusion of trust to be maintained. This means we can have completely the opposite of full information i.e., [-1, 0, +1]

The hidden truth

Together these factors in each arena seem to help explain what was perceived versus what transpired. And how combative aims were concealed. By breaching the perception of trust we have a means to consider a bigger range of action potential as hidden intent.

Accordingly, when there is covert (as opposed to overt) action potential, this is beyond a poorly shared truth. This is concealment, and acting within a lie. Self-serving, self-justifying harm.

Is it too much to suggest in a caveat emptor project world, we occasionally fit this expanded mould?

One more?

And what of today’s headlines? Knock-knock Prime Minister. Plenty of eyes are now looking behind your door.

Uncertain relations

My visibility | behaviour | trust in you

My thanks to Chris Bragg for a line of questioning that prompting these prose; Jason Hier for promoting the dialogue from which I repeat my part in here; and Dinah Turner who generated the original visual prompt. All of which started {here}, a discussion on LinkedIn. My thanks also to Bill Sherman. Another LinkedIn thread {here}, one with a challenge I accepted yesterday, and answer at the end of this blog.

Visibility of what? v | b | t in context

Visibility for my project purposes i.e., Visibility | b | t , is addressing transparency between parties. Directed towards what is known and what remains uncertain. In our projects, how much visibility are we sharing one party (project actor) to the next?

This is how visibility relates behaviour i.e., v | behaviour | t , as transparency by one party to the next. This transparency reveals or hides certain behaviour. That could be our intentions, motivations, or actions. Derived perhaps from something as simple as our hubris or belief that we are surely right. Or something more self-interested or malevolent. From these two variables we can ask if we are affording the right level of trust i.e., v | b | trust , to the exchange. Assessing all three presents an indication of collaborative nature, as it relates to all parties supporting the intended change, as project truth.

How are we safeguarding a project from what we do not know?

This sketch, from Dinah Turner, prompted the wider discussion I refer to above. If the dot was the minimal amount of necessary information, Jason Hier teased us with asking what if it was as little as 1%, then let’s respond with the question as a percentage of what? We need to have more awareness to the reality that somethings are not knowable – but that our processes need to have the adaptability to manage these later realisations.

Image used with permission from Dinah Turner

As a graphic to reflect our limited availability of information, what was prompted here was a discussion around making best use of the little information we have. From my perspective (as related to project knowledge), the diagram also presented a third area of interest. (1) the spot of what is known; (2) the assumed everything there is; (3) a challenge to the assumption we can ever bound everything there is to know – beyond the circle. This is what Gigerenzer (2014) would reflect upon when comparing risk vs. uncertainty. It is the difference between working within a closed system vs one that interrelates to more. Or Engwall‘s “no project is an island” from which we can remove ourselves from closed system thinking in any project situation. Combining these two principles, we always have some uncertainty. I suggest the circle in the above graphic houses “the question we asked”. But outside the circle is “the question we wish we knew to pose”. From here we can hope to critically appraise the manner of any decisions being made, for what purpose, and from an information perspective we can ask “based upon what?“.

Being able to seek clarity on what the 1% represents enables better questions. Anyone who knows me, will know that my most likely answer to a question, is another question. This is because a question directs our attention to a set of assumptions and constraints. Are these parameters intended to facilitate an open dialogue, or are they intended to funnel and dissuade a wider perspective? Is this reflecting behaviour of the person posing the question, that we trust to have this right?

It is at these earliest of moments – in defining both problem and constraints – that we can begin to become unstuck. And why we should all therefore be first challenging the question, to see what visibility, behaviour, and trust, is represented. See other blogs on these areas individually, including for example sensemaking and wider problem solving perspectives.

Projects as time bound intended change

This is a dynamic position, and therefore change. In the modelling idea I have in mind, this is where my attempt to define everything by a project definition comes into play: as time bound intended change. And that any change, even one of enquiry, can be captured by this project definition.

Projects within projects

This also challenges us to consider if our collaborative practices are ever actually aimed at the same project. Or are two project actors working on their own projects and attempting to direct outcomes to their own intended outcome – even if that is at the expense of the other. I have in mind here game theory models that represent zero sum outcomes (winner:loser); or those where lesser outcomes emerge because of failures to cooperate (see prisoner’s dilemma, or tragedy of the commons, as examples).

Other factors are then able to be introduced:

  • direction of influence. Interests directed into the one project, or away from the project and directed instead toward the party with most momentary influence.
  • manner of project control to support the retained inward influence of both the one project aim and protection of all project actors.

These are factors that relate to potential outcomes. The one shared outcome, if we are claiming to be in the one same project. Each factor (visibility, behaviour, trust, influence, and control) the aggregation of contributing factors. So, if a question is asked with a hidden or misguided agenda in mind, the project of enquiry is immediately more likely to fail. Failure because it fails at least one participant, and probably the project overall. Or if the intent was misdirection, there was never a single project with the two parties in mind.

At bigger scale, this is why the inevitable uncertainty that exists is eroding this collaborative endeavour if it is simply defined and offloaded in contract. This is not the same as project outcome control. It is more simply a financial risk transfer with increased likelihood of dispute. Arguably a later revelation that project truth never existed. Only the roughly aligned interests of the two separate projects and outcomes each party was interested in, influencing, and operating with suboptimal visibility, behaviour, and trust.

I would argue this is the default position in construction. As one example where hidden agenda is almost always assumed, even if not shown. Low visibility as data is filtered between commercial boundaries. Malevolent behaviours. No trust. Contracts attempting to replace trust, but therein failing to regain control.

If this observation is accepted, then it offers an rough guide to likelihood of project success. If we see a project with inadequate control of its truth (the totality of visibility, behaviour, and trust) it is a riskier project than it needs to be. It is representing a project at risk of unseen influences, permitting malevolent interests, and abuses of empowerment bestowed. Therein is the prospect of increased potential for dispute, plus missed opportunity to intervene.

Are we one project? My ongoing hypothetical

I am yet to be convinced we can ever truly be one project. It is why this entire blogsite is called Projects | Within Projects. But I do think we can seek to ensure our own projects are more closely aligned. As well as all the other project assessments we undertake, I am suggesting this v | b | t assessment of the many influences, directed at the appropriateness of controls containing them, can be one of those higher level quick indications of the human made threats to success.

This affords a simple question, “why say yes to this project?“. Why as a potential project actor agree to enter this enterprise if the divergent interests are not a central focus of control? Why insure it? Why invest in it? Why be party to it? Why approve it? If one can heuristically identify this increased chance of failure, the questions you ask can all be directed this way.

This is visibility | behaviour | trust as a rule of thumb. A heuristic tool, directed at the overall collaborative interest at a project’s core. A work in progress. One that keeps me returning to first principles, new discourse, and regular revisits to this hypothesis as I go.

Agreed or not agreed – is that my question?

And finally…to the challenge I am responding to.

Can you distil your best ideas down into a simple question?

asks Bill Sherman via LinkedIn

Bill Sherman – a writer of thought leadership, and taking ideas to scale. His post yesterday was quite different. He compared NASA mission statements to those we each set ourselves. He offered contemporary examples of the questions NASA set to define their missions. Each a single question – pithy and capturing the imagination of any five year old or older still living with a sense of wonder. His challenge, which I agreed, is to set my idea into a single question. What is the essence of what this big idea is trying to do?

Bills advises us to be guided by the following:-

What’s your big idea that you’re pursuing?

How are you staying connected to your sense of wonder?

Are you able to explain that wonder to others?

Here’s a quick way to check:

1. Write your big idea in one sentence that evokes joy/wonder.
2. Then, test it out. Ask people what they think.
3. Keep going until people say “wow.”

I will confess to writing this entire blog with this question in mind. So here goes, attempt number one.

Can our modelling of projects be linked, to better guide all scales of intended change?

Version one

Can success or failure be gauged by a simple assessment of external influences and resulting appropriateness of project controls?

Version two

Projects are jeopardised if rogue influence gains control: can we avoid the invitations to fail?

Version three

v | b | t

visibility | behaviour | trust

Someone very kindly asked me about v | b | t today. A chat ensued via DM on LinkedIn. A very welcome challenge or validation of an idea which I am still tentatively exploring.

v | b | t is an experiment of sorts. It introduced itself to me as I was analysing the themes from the PFI projects I was assessing – via my MSc dissertation in project management in early 2020. In categorising my interview data into themes, the three categories that emerged were visibility | behaviour | trust. Collectively they combined to represent whether parties shared one project truth. To which I could then assess whether each project party was directing their influences into the project, or towards themselves.

We often fall short upon this metric, although I am still working through the validity of this idea. It is proving useful in projects of all kinds, in personal development, and assessing the nature of leadership and decision-making sincerity at scale.

For me this is about unlocking ways to assess how cohesive the interests and influences of parties really are. v | b | t is helping me give a first view on whether control environments are suited to the project aims and people involved. I am concluding it’s our relationships and attitudes towards sharing or passing on risk that is our bigger threat, often bigger than the physical or financial risks themselves. Risks that threaten the very project outcome, or intended change.

v | b | t has become a useful heuristic tool for me. It is promoting further research. I’m now doing another MSc, this time in psychology, with an aim to direct my research towards broader human behaviour. The links to projects, as intended change, perhaps then taking this towards a PhD. Scrutiny via academic rigour in these ideas, and a need for validation (or perhaps a hubris) within me.

We are socially motivated as a species. But deeper down we are emotionally directed to look out for ourselves. This conflicting anticipatory distraction is at our core. So can we look at behaviours and consider the inherent trust? Consider if we are sharing a truth, or defending our own.

That is v | b | t : a thumb nail approximation of acting collaboratively.

Let the seller beware

caveat venditor – let the seller beware

There have been some notable u-turns this week and last. U-Turns by institutions normally too big to be easily persuaded to redirect based upon public opinion. We have Mars joining Coco-Cola and McDonalds in creating distance from Russia. We had an apology from Shell for buying cheap Russian oil. We had FIFA and the Olympic committee bending to challenge to their neutrality. At Westminster we have a government in constant repositioning as lack-lustre responses expose inability to sense the mood or recover lost faith.

There is new uncertainty causing false moves and ill-judged decisions by boards, executive function and high political office. In the next few months I think we are going to see many more.

The real power of the consumer is at work here. Namely the ability to make a choice. It is a cause of fear and indecision as old power priorities become incompatible with precious corporate reputation that is hard won and easily lost. When reputation is at risk, this threat brings new priorities to decision-making. Old priorities relegated and recategorised as acceptable collateral damage. Particularly when precious share value (or electoral support) is rushing to the door.

I predict more pressure on institutions is on the way. Based upon the change of attitudes of us, the general public, in face of increased uncertainty. We are becoming more attentive and suspicious of motives. This is infectious. Institutions should expect the seeds of doubt to grow.

v | b | t explaining this increased variance to change

Here are some brief reflections of what I think is going on.

v | b | trust

Reputation is the preservation of trust we the consumer/user have in the seller/provider. Do we trust their values and ethics to align with our own? As individuals we are able to revisit our values and expectations quickly. We are fickle. We are sometimes irrational. Unlike the institution however, we as individuals are each capable of reframing. We may change group affiliations, or sit in more than one camp. Each one of us resetting towards higher norms of human decency when distracted from our more selfish localised cause. This fragile belief or perception (i.e., that others share these higher values) can be quickly eroded. This reassessment can be applied equally to a single entity within an industry, an entire industry, a group, a government, a nation, a whole corner of the globe.

visibility | b | t

In moments of increased uncertainty, it is natural to seek more information. The more profoundly different the circumstances, the more motivated we are to take more time to look. We may have seen leaders turning a blind-eye. Secretly we may have turned a blind-eye to that too. But when those justifications for our disinterest are inconsistent with new threat, we are blind no more.

v | behaviour | t

This is a change to our behaviour. Redirecting peripheral interests towards central attention. Assessing others behaviour with more critical interest. Seeking to know better the attributes and bias of another. This is an increased openness to revisit and change our modelled understanding of how we relate to the other entity. This is reappraisal of action as indications of, or arising from, factors such as attitudes, motivations, beliefs. Ultimately this is the prompt to readjust and make choices anew.

v | b | t – Boristas beware

Dare I dream that in these moments of heightened uncertainty we may all begin asking more probing questions? Trusting less and demanding more?

This is what I see with Shell’s nervous apology this week. We are watching their purchase decisions of cheap Russian oil, and the excuses on Friday did not hold. It would normally not have caught our attention. This is McDonalds and Coca-Cola taking positions on Russia that a week ago would simply not have been entertained. Again, we are now watching and potentially making significant life choices, if another’s actions reflect values we do not hold.

This is also the spin of politics at Westminster. Wavering and spluttering as more pertinent questions are posed. In my house this is now a standing joke of the self-serving. The Boristas in high-office serving us Johnsonian truths daily, now finding life increasingly hard. Their servings shown to be insipid and cold.

Form follows function

Dare I dream this increased uncertainty of what is otherwise taken for granted is going to provoke necessary change in response. The critical controls of decision-efficacy challenged anew, structures of wider governance required to change too. If we all ask more searching questions, we eventually look at the forms serving the functions we expect, and ask if maybe they have to change too.

The bigger question now approaching is what new primary function is now emerging? The functional forms to better reflect these changing wants and needs of the global village. And what forms can retain their use as this unfolds?

The 2020s have not finished with us yet…