The Costs Of Not Doing Something Else

Dec 8, 2008   //   by Hackadelic   //   Blog  //  No Comments
This entry is part of a series, Project Management Thoughts»

Hidden MoneyI finished my last article on the project management topic with the thought:

It is common to measure the cost of what we do. But how do we measure the cost of what we don’t do, or don’t do differently?

In essence, it’s a question of how to measure the relative advantage or disadvantage of doing things one way or another.

To exemplify, I’d like to metaphorically use the notion of a trekking leader. (In many ways, a trekking leader is a good metaphor for a project manager, I believe.)

John and Nick are both trekking leaders and they apply to lead a trek from A to B. Nick claims to know a shorter and safer way from A to B then John, but John is better at self-promotion, so he “wins” the trek. Even if John’s way is longer (and hence more costly, at least in terms of energy), and riskier, chances are he manages to finish the trek successfully. Here, “successfully” means bringing everybody to B, no losses of human life, no starving and freezing beyond a degree of serious health damage, and the like. In essence, it means meeting only some minimum criteria. If met, nobody is going to ask if Nick’s way would have been the better, easier, more comfortable way to go.

Tiger looking at youIn fact, should there have been serious threats John’s trek has faced, and John managed to lead everybody past the danger, he is likely to be celebrated hero. In consequence, John will be able to exploit his moment of fame to win more clients and more treks, which he is likely to lead through the same adventurous roads, gaining even more fame by that.

But lest we not forget:

John’s fame origins in his lacking knowledge of a better and safer passage!

Because those bravely surmounted threats have been the result of the riskier road taken in the first place.1

To come back to project management, I’d conclude: If I wanted an adventure in the wilderness, I might choose John’s trek. But if I owned a company, I’d like to have a bunch of Nicks for project managers!

Wouldn’t you?

  1. This is not to confuse with courage to take risk where risk is due, making a conscious, educated decision to do so. But John is taking risk because he doesn’t know better, which is an entirely different story. []

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