Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Distinguishing Competence from Success

IMAO... 8-)

If someone told you that the last 5 projects they had been involved with, in particular the last 5 they had be a leader on, had ended with the project goals not being met, you might tend to doubt their competence. But based only on this information, you would be wrong to do so. Why?

Suppose I now told you that the 5 failed projects were:
(1) Bringing peace to the middle east
(2) Creating a sustainable planetary eco-system
(3) Reducing first year infant mortality to below 1 in 10000 in every country in the world
(4) Creating a habitable environment outside the earth's atmosphere
(5) Inspiring a whole generation to a level of spiritual fulfillment than has previously been only available to a tiny few

You are welcome to add any other of those kinds of projects to the list that belong there. Just exactly what set of projects you would like to include on that list is not the point. The point is that it is a list of objectives which while they maybe extremely desirable, are not the kind of objectives that are just going to fall in to your lap.

Perhaps the most important step in project management is to identify the right project to be working on.

Competence has only a partial relationship with the achievement of project outcomes. There is a whole other side to the equation of how projects succeed or fail and that is a consequence of firstly innovation and risk and secondly the sheer weight of opposition.

The more innovative a project is, the more risky it is, and hence the greater are the chances of it failing to meet objectives. On the other hand, most of us agree that innovation is good. Innovation is the way to make life better for people, rather than simply resign ourselves to the well-known chartered territory of the options that present themselves from the past.

Many of those past options are of course good. Innovation isn't by any means the most important or only thing to value, but it is the path that leads the way to the land of "Better".

Turning to the aspect of the weight of opposition, some projects are just a lot harder.

It is for these two reasons that it is crucially important to distinguish competence from success. Competence is a measure of effectiveness in the fulfillment of an objective which can be measured irrespective of the achievement of project goals.

As such, you may be an extremely competent person who fails to meet your objectives on a daily basis, given the level of opposition or the level of innovation regarding the projects you are working on.