If we knew the outcome of all our interactions, if everything was predestined, then we would accept our fate and get on with our lives. If you know you are going to hell then why bother being good? If you know you’re going to heaven why bother being better? But we don’t know; so we have to make our judgments and make the best of it.
Uncertainty is our lot in life and the sooner a project manager accepts that the better it will be. Mathematical models can tell you a lot of things, what they can’t tell you is how things will actually turn out. At best they can get you close, at worst they can completely mislead you. Don’t become fixated on the predictions of any model. Remember the crash of 2009, all those bankers had super models created by Phds and Nobel Prize winners, and we know how well that turned out.
The great economist John Maynard Keynes warned in the 1930’s that uncertainty was all you could be certain of.
So, if all you can be certain of is uncertainty; how are you to survive in the real world of project politics?
Well the first thing you can do is take off your rose colored glasses and any other blinkers you have been stuck with. Wild animals do not constantly move their heads around or sniff the air because they want to get the kinks out of their necks or savor the pleasant aroma of crushed flowers. No, they do so to scent both prey and predators: they seek both victims and enemies. So, as a project manager you need to be constantly surveying your landscape for enemies, friends, and allies.
Allies are different than friends in that they are with you as long as their interests coincide with yours. When they diverge the alliance is over, for now. Remember if you’ve allied with a person or group before you might well do so again, just as long as you didn’t have a hissy fit during the break up of the previous union.
Don’t create an enemy out of an opponent, you’ll discover enough enemies in business life without creating them unnecessarily. Today's opponent maybe tomorrows ally.
It can all be summarized in the pithy saying from the Middle East, “Allies come and go, but enemies accumulate.”