A good friend of mine on hearing me utter for the umpteenth time my advice that for projects: “its never too early to start failing” sarcastically named it Briers Law. Well what applies to projects also applies to the profession and particularly its education courses. The main examples are the Introduction to Project Management ones given to executives and consultants, usually the only course on Project Management that they ever take.
These courses are specifically designed to give their attendees a simplified explanation of what happens on a project. In fact in many cases the courses are not merely simplified they are made simple, as in Project Management for Morons!
The attention challenged executives and consultants in fact demand short, the shorter the better, simplistic courses because they don’t have the time to spend on a detailed course. In other words they don’t want to be educated, never mind seek a deep understanding of the process.
During the simplification of course material all the uncertainty associated with projects is swept under the carpet. Complexity is expunged from the process and the sequential process of waterfall is explained in terms an average eight year old could understand. The aim is not to create a sense of unease in the attendees by exposing them to the realities of life, but rather to give them a sense of comfort that project management is not that difficult.
From this education they take away the certainty that definite, deterministic end dates can be derived and managed to, irrespective of project scope and complexity. And that a project budget can likewise have a definite value that can be baked into company financial plans with all the permanence of a tombstone carving.
So from the very start of our project management education curriculum we open up the possibility that some, maybe many, of our executive students gain incorrect expectations about what they can expect from project management processes. And in doing so make life very difficult project managers who work with them. Truly a fine example of Briers Law: It’s never too soon to start failing.