Usually we regard the critical path as future-oriented, including only incomplete tasks. But if CP is a critical-path task, depending on a completed task C, C can suddenly find itself in the critical path. Here are some insights that help us understand the politics of the most common situations.
- Sudden discoveries
- CP, one of the consumers of C's deliverables, might suddenly discover a problem with C's deliverables. Since CP is in the critical path, it's probably experiencing pressure. By asserting that the problem lies in C, rather than CP, some of that pressure is relieved, at least temporarily.
- Notice the sources of claims that C's deliverables are deficient. If the source lies in the critical path, investigate the evidence for those claims especially carefully.
- Shipping the problem upstream
- Sometimes, troubles in a dependent task CP lead to decisions to solve the problem by reaching back to the completed task C and demanding changes. Shipping the trouble upstream in this way requires political clout, but it does happen.
- The pressure of the critical path is a common motivation for shipping trouble upstream. CP might have multiple issues. By exporting some of them, CP gains time and resources to address other issues. The intention isn't necessarily malevolent (though it can be), but as time passes, the temptation to use the excuse that "C hasn't yet fixed its deliverable" can be irresistible. C can often defend itself from such actions by making the cost of rework explicit.
- Requirements volatility
- When requirements change, they sometimes affect work already completed. If C's deliverables no longer meet requirements, C can suddenly find itself in the critical path, even if it was considered complete under the old requirements.
- Maintain vigilance over requirements that pertain to completed tasks. Changing them is usually expensive. Constituencies with interests in critical-path tasks, seeking to avoid rework in their own tasks, sometimes exert pressure to change requirements that affect already-completed tasks.
- Defective completion criteria
- Sometimes defects in the completion criteria for the completed task C aren't recognized until a dependent The pressure of the critical
path is a common motivation
for shipping trouble upstreamcritical-path task CP starts using C's deliverables. In some political environments, CP might insist that C "fix" its deliverable, even though it met the original completion criteria.
- Careful review of all completion criteria can reduce the probability of this happening, and close cooperation between C and CP can sometimes uncover completion criteria defects before C's work is complete. This is especially important when C and CP are executed at different locations or by different organizations.
Among the nastiest problems to resolve is contention for resources between a critical path task and a task that was considered complete, but which has been re-opened by the political actions of that critical-path task. Take care: sparks can fly. First in this series Top Next Issue
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More articles on Workplace Politics:
- Telephonic Deceptions: II
- Deception at work probably wasn't invented at work. Most likely it is a continuation of deception in
the rest of life. But the technologies of the modern workplace offer new opportunities to practice the
art. Here's Part II of a handy guide for telephonic self-defense.
- Fooling Ourselves
- Humans have impressive abilities to convince themselves of things that are false. One explanation for
this behavior is the theory of cognitive dissonance.
- Some Hazards of Skip-Level Interviews: III
- Skip-level interviews — dialogs between a subordinate and the subordinate's supervisor's supervisor
— can be hazardous. Here's Part III of a little catalog of the hazards, emphasizing subordinate-initiated
- Holding Back: I
- When members of teams or groups hold back their efforts toward achieving group goals, schedule and budget
problems can arise, along with frustration and destructive intra-group conflict. What causes this behavior?
- The Costanza Matrix
- The Seinfeld character "George Costanza" is famous for having said, "It's not a lie if
you believe it." What if you don't believe it and it's true? Some musings.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming August 23: Look Where You Aren't Looking
- Being blindsided by an adverse event could indicate the event's sudden, unexpected development. It can also indicate a failure to anticipate what could have been reasonably anticipated. How can we improve our ability to prepare for adverse events? Available here and by RSS on August 23.
- And on August 30: They Just Don't Understand
- When we cannot resolve an issue in open debate, we sometimes try to explain the obstinacy of others. The explanations we favor can tell us more about ourselves than they do about others. Available here and by RSS on August 30.
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- The Race to the South Pole: Ten Lessons for Project Managers
- On 14 December 1911, four men led by Roald
Amundsen reached the South Pole. Thirty-five days later, Robert F. Scott and four others followed. Amundsen
had won the race to the pole. Amundsen's party returned to base on 26 January 1912. Scott's party perished.
As historical drama, why this happened is interesting enough, but to organizational leaders, business
analysts, project sponsors, and project managers, the story is fascinating. Lessons abound. Read
more about this program. Here are some dates for this program:
- The Westin Virginia Beach Town Center, 4535 Commerce Street,
Virginia Beach, VA 23462: September 13,
Monthly Meeting, Hampton Roads Chapter of the Project Management Institute. Register now.
- CTCPA, 716 Brook Street,
Rocky Hill, CT 06067: September 20,
Full-day Workshop, Southern New England Chapter of the Project Management Institute. Register now.
- The Westin Virginia Beach Town Center, 4535 Commerce Street, Virginia Beach, VA 23462: September 13, Monthly Meeting, Hampton Roads Chapter of the Project Management Institute. Register now.
- Creating High Performance Virtual Teams
- Many people experience virtual teams as awkward, slow, and sometimes
frustrating. Even when most team members hail from the same nation or culture, and even when they all
speak the same language, geographic dispersion or the presence of employees from multiple enterprises
is often enough to exclude all possibility of high performance. The problem is that we lead, manage,
and support virtual teams in ways that are too much like the way we lead, manage, and support co-located
teams. In this program, Rick Brenner shows you how to change your approach to leading, managing, and
supporting virtual teams to achieve high performance using Simons' Four Spans model of high performance.
Read more about this program. Here's a date for this
- Baci Grill, 134 Berlin
Road, Berlin, CT 06416: September 19,
Monthly Meeting, Southern New England Chapter of the Project Management Institute. Register now.
- Baci Grill, 134 Berlin Road, Berlin, CT 06416: September 19, Monthly Meeting, Southern New England Chapter of the Project Management Institute. Register now.
- The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
- Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.