Oct 12, 2012

Early collaboration - The only sustainable way to a successful project!

Skewed focus on man hours shows lack of vision and macro level perspective.

We are trying to deal here two separate but overlapping subjects.
Apparently it will take another century for people to realize and acknowledge that amount of man hour invested for certain outcome has very less or at times has nothing to do with the outcome, except in a production environment. They have glamorized work rather than results because that’s what they have done throughout preliminary to mid evolutionary stage of their existence, it’s only recently that they have realized that they should pause and rethink, re-strategies their way of working, possibly that’s why there are so many managerial positions and functional hierarchy exists in any work environment, that’s why machines and automation today. In the bygone era when people used to rely on theirs hunting instinct and brute strength to gather food day and night just for their survival, at that point of time outcome was directly proportional to amount of man hour invested, but if we are carrying that same attitude in our present life even after countless centuries later whether its work or daily chores or educational environment, then there must be something wrong in our approach or mindset. Though all these novel mindbits are not going to change anyone since people have and will find out traditional or innovative ways to invest their precious time and resources in some not so productive or rather wasteful laborious works in the name of engagement, work ethics, traditional methodology and so on. Man hours are still essential today but is not and should not be monumental, rather than putting mindless hours of shear hard work on a certain issue or project one should engage there mind towards strategic intervention, re-intervention and resource-optimization regarding that particular issue or project for lesser hour of work per outcome which in turn will lessen the stress level, provide work satisfaction and give more hour of leisure time. 
Let’s take an example of project lifecycle. You start with an assumption or a vision, say we have to build a new state-of-art sustainable or something city. It is primarily driven by demand and project economics, you estimate and gather resources accordingly, you set a timeline, you of course have a template of timeline which you as a consultant or a developer apply everywhere because you see it’s a proven methodology or timeline. Construction and project management process has a time span with only marginal flexibility since it’s a production environment and it has its own time and technological limitations, so keeping that aside let’s see where is the scope of improvement in terms of saving work hours in a project lifecycle from the very beginning right from the moment when that bright idea first strikes somebody’s brain.  Project and business development you know also has its own pace of progress depending on which particular part or location of the world your client and project is located, but for the time being our focus would be planning and design process and understanding how much man hour and resources we usually apply for certain outcome and how to optimize that, whether there is even scope for optimization or not, though one feels there is, indeed. You quickly prepare a vision plan statement right or wrong but appealing, you allocate responsibilities; you start on a blank sheet with a mug of coffee to catch ideas out of thin air or relying on one’s experience and knowledge or understanding of the contemporary regional market or in some cases straight sanitized ideas from Google, bravo! After a quick brainstorming session one person or maybe two lays the broad outline of plan or design based on certain assumptions while rest of the workforce starts filling the intermediate details and ruthlessly keep on detailing only until they realize that something went grossly wrong in the broad outline or the assumptions, or may be client changed their mind or may be a new board of director or project leader with his or her own particular vision or idiosyncrasy has appeared either your side or on client’s side who wants everything to be re-done from scratch to align things to his or her vision, or may be market situation has changed or may be a new technology has surfaced and so on.   

What was wrong here? Putting ruthless countless hours of detailing is okay but only if the project framework is robust and logical enough to sustain any or most of the future dynamics, an outline and assumptions accommodative and smart enough to absorb and negotiate inevitable future changes as it proceeds ahead. What was wrong here is that when most of the collaborative effort was needed then only one or two people were deciding the fate of project due to their commanding position. In this exemplary case of new city vision plan, when it was the time where urban and regional planner, transport planner, economist, real estate expert, social scientist, environment planners, landscape experts, urban designers, architects, and public and community representatives had to be present at one platform at the beginning of the project to brainstorm and formulate an inclusive, sustainable and future proof plan with democratic consensus, at that vital point of time only one or two people where making the decisions according to their own particular idiosyncrasies, which was inevitably unsustainable. Hence, the several repetitive cycles of wasteful man-hours till the completion of project.  You should know when is the right time to collaborate; you can keep on detailing endlessly afterwards, if you want! Thousands of sincere man hours put in wrong direction is a serious toll on increasingly scarce resources which we can’t really afford if we want a sustainable future or even otherwise and all this thoughtless waste just because we didn’t collaborate when it was needed most.  

You see there are frequent cases when some projects of regional or national importance get stuck for infinite time even when they were just about to complete, only because community representatives were not part of the planning process irrespective of whether there is such provision or not, either they didn’t have proper say or they lacked motivation and incentive to join or collaborate early, such a waste of resource as a result!     
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