This week’s installment of Commitment – Novel about Managing Project Risk by Olav Maassen, Chris Matts and Chris Geary (2nd edition, 2016) will address Chapter 7, which using the monomyth structure represents both atonement and the return home, the completion of the cycle. Next week we will conclude with a few final thoughts. The next book in the Re-read Saturday Series will be Kent Beck’s xP Explained, Second Edition.
Chapter 7 begins when Duncan tracks Rose and her sister down to tell her that she may not have a job. The client pulled funding because it was too risky. Rose decides to tackle the problem head on and ropes her sister and Duncan into seeing if they can get things sorted out. All of this is occurring despite the fact that they were getting positive feedback on a weekly basis (later we find out that the client has not been implementing the new code rather waiting for a big bang, which IS risky).
When the trio gets to work, Rose gathers the team and does some scenario planning. Scenario planning is a form of the real options approach proposed in Commitment. The team identifies four potential four scenarios for their situation. The first is that the work goes forward as normal. The second is the possibility that the company can salvage some of the work completed and use it for another client. The third is that some of the people go to work with the “idiots” on the fourth floor (Duncan’s project). The fourth scenario is scrapping everything and everyone is fired. Rose asks the team to split up into smaller teams of 2 to 3 to flesh out the scenarios so that everyone will know how to act if that scenario becomes a commitment. On a personal level, this type of scenario planning is deeply ingrained in my psyche.
As with other points in the novel, after the introduction of a concept, a call out is used to provide exposition. The call out is Lilly’s blogs entry on increasing your psychic odds using scenario planning. The blog entry points out that scenario planning is another expression of real options. The scenario planning helps to reduce the angst of uncertainty without making a commitment (discussed in Chapter 6). The blog entry provides an example documented in Peter Senge’s book, The Fifth Discipline. The process generated communication and collaboration across siloed group and department lines, which did not happen normally. Scenario planning as a tool for risk management has positive benefits because people think through how they will act and react if the scenario occurs. Scenario planning in Senge’s book occurred at an organizational level; however scenario planning is applicable at any scale.
The transition back to the action in the story begins with as Rose meets with the client and begins the meeting by explaining the impact of the ‘cancel the project’ scenario on the client. Rose walks through a chart showing the two of the client’s competitors that have been updating their software monthly are taking market share from Rose’s client. Rose’s client has not updated their software in over a year, even though they were getting weekly updates. Rose suggests that if the trend continues the client will have no market share. The meeting shows the risk issue as the client’s fear that if a change goes wrong they will lose market share even faster. Rose points out that the weekly incremental change reduces risk and that because the change is incremental even if something goes wrong it will be “rolled back” quickly minimizing the impact. The meeting ends with the client going off to reconsider (taking Rose’s phone number so they can go to the source to ask the questions).
Skipping over the date with Duncan that includes a bad movie, piano playing, and dark apartment windows, we get to the decision. The phone rings and everyone holds their collective breath waiting for Rose to answer. The project is back on and after a brief non-celebration, they press forward to complete the project.
We next cut to the project retrospective and celebration. Interrupting the end of project celebration, a group of suits enters and announces the sacking of Rose from the project at the request of the client. The sacking from the project clears the way for her promotion to vice president. The scene provides a bit of melodrama for capping the chapter.