Delivery by Crisis – taking pragmatism to extremes

Risk management conditions us to feel it’s vital to be cautious. We must plan properly, test thoroughly, document clearly and deliver with control. And these are principles that have stood innumerous projects in good stead.

But could there be another way?

Is there a devil’s advocate that appears in the form of a service crippling crisis?

When the lights go out a dust-covered candle stub shines as a bright beacon…

Because when nothing is working, you have nothing to loose!

I have witnessed occasions when technical solutions have been crash-delivered before they were properly ready in order to fix operational issues, when it has been worth cutting corners and dealing afterwards with the minimal amount of clean-up required. These urgencies have actually been to to mutual benefit – saving the project’s time and the operational team’s bacon 🙂

I’m not saying that project management principles or service delivery best practice should be abandoned in favour of cavalier practice, headstrong anarchy or a do-now–think-later mentality. Implementing deliverables when they are not properly ready should be saved for extreme emergencies only.

However that raw, needs-driven approach that characterises critical failures points to the practical idea – that extreme pragmatism could be applied in a measured way for slightly less impending events.

Perhaps it could be a valuable habit to always do a quick cost-benefit evaluation on each facet of a large body of work. Sometimes “because we’ve always done it” or “because the normal process says we HAVE to” are assertions that beg to be questioned in the name of good sense. Measure each risk objectively, in the grand scheme of things, and question whether those test criteria, document sections or even requirements actually justify the amount of effort they will consume. Nice to have? But at what price?!?

If you tip the playing field up far enough then you’ll find it easy
to kick the ball towards your own goal and still score in your opponent’s net. And crises show clearly how extreme people will allow pragmatism to be, when there is enough at stake.

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One Response to “Delivery by Crisis – taking pragmatism to extremes”

  1. Arthur M. Gallagher Says:

    PS: In many cases, Crises (whether technical, operational or even economical) are caused by failing to manage risk properly. Whether its ignoring the probability, underestimating the impact, or just sheer bloody-mindedness, many people end up facing a crisis they could have prevented.

    In no way does the above article condone a lack of proper risk management in any area of business. The point is simply that not all mitigating steps are always worthwhile. If the cost of avoiding the risk exceeds the impact of it actually maturing, then it is a waste of effort.

    Its simply about thinking before doing, and making sure the effort is really worthwhile.


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