jump to navigation

How to Keep on Track with Margin September 4, 2012

Posted by thefieldgeneral in Leadership, Project Management.
trackback

Integrity is the most important characteristic for a leader and for a project. For a leader it means soundness of moral and ethical principles. For a project it means that the project is whole and unbroken. Both cases mean that the person or project has remained on the intended path. Why then do projects and people get off track?

Thanks to Jessica Merz @http://www.flickr.com/photos/jessicafm/

I love the quote from the Matrix “you’ve already made the choice. Now you have to understand it.” This refers to major decisions. It refers to issues of integrity. The trick with integrity is that it never fails due to one decision. In essence “you’ve already made the choice.” It fails because of a series of small inconsistencies that slowly move the actor towards the edges of the successful path. When a critical decision comes, it is skewed because the person or project is off-center.

A project that is 50% off schedule has usually been slightly off schedule for a long time. A buildup of small delays has become the death of a thousand cuts.

Likewise the major integrity scandals of our leadership didn’t occur because of one bad decision. Nixon didn’t make a mistake with one lie. He had a long standing habit of untruth which made the decision to lie about something important easy. I am certain that Bill Clinton’s indiscretion was only the latest in a long line of less explosive indiscretions. Small moral failings become common place, and larger moral failings seem smaller.

So how do you keep your projects and yourself on the right path?

The answer is margin.

When we drive, we put lines on the road to help us know when we are too close to the edge. The goal is to keep us safe. This same principal can be used in any project and any moral activity. The process is pretty consistent.

1. Identify the critical boundary you must not cross.

  • Example: The budget must not exceed $10,000 on this project
  • Example: I will not have an affair with a woman I am not married to.
  • Example: The project must be done by August 8 and have less than 10 open defects
  • Example: I will be honest.

2. You may need to further define your critical boundary

  • a. The budget must not exceed $10,000 on this project.
  1. This one is pretty well set
  • b. I will not have an affair with a woman I am not married to.
  1. An affair is defined as having any kind of sexual contact with another woman (a chaste hug is ok)
  • c. The project must be done by August 8 and have less than 10 open defects
  1. It’s ok to have more defects in the project, but by the end we need to have <10
  • d. I will be honest.
  1. I won’t lie to my friends or family. I will attempt to be honest in business and everywhere else.

3. Now, establish a margin and set a boundary inside of that margin. This is essentially like the lines of the road. We don’t paint the lines so that they run exactly along the edge of a cliff. Instead we allow 1 or 3 or 10 feet between the edge and the line. This is your margin, so that if you accidentally cross the line, you haven’t crossed the critical boundary.

  • a. The budget must not exceed $10,000 on this project
  1. This one is pretty well set
  2. My margin boundary is a budget where I am under $9500 dollars. If I exceed it in one place, I need to cut in another so that I can keep that margin
  • b.I will not have an affair with a woman I am not married to.
  1. An affair is defined as having any kind of sexual contact with another woman (a chaste hug is ok)
  2. I won’t hug a woman who isn’t my relative or my wife. I won’t be in a room alone with them with the door shut.
  • c. Example: The project must be done by August 8 and have less than 10 open defects
  1. It’s ok to have more defects in the project, but by the end we need to have <10
  2. I want to be 10% ahead of schedule on both counts. I will keep a record of where we need to be on to achieve both defects and time. If ever get less than 10% ahead of schedule, I’ll work with the team to get us back on track.
  • d. Example: I will be honest.
  1. I won’t lie to my friends or family. I will attempt to be honest in business and everywhere else.
  2. I won’t cheat on my taxes. I won’t carry food and drinks secretly into theaters. I won’t take illegally copied CDs or movies.

Does all this sound overboard? Of course it does. If you violate these boundaries, you can see the lines and correct your path. Without the lines, positioned well within your critical boundaries, one slip of the wheel and you may find yourself careening off a cliff.

Where have you have used boundaries to make sure you don’t go off track?
Comment Here

Advertisements

Comments»

No comments yet — be the first.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: