Why the Blind End Up Following the Insane (& Vice Versa)

By Doug DeCarlo

eXtreme project management recognizes that every project is first and foremost a business venture and must demonstrate an acceptable ROI. The successful eXtreme Project Manager will relentlessly update the answers to xPM's 4 Business Questions throughout the life of the project. The answers will continually change, sometimes weekly, or even more often. The 4 questions are:
  1. Who needs what and why?
  2. What will it take to do it?
  3. Can we get what it takes?
  4. Is it worth it?
Here's where the soap opera begins. Mary Business Owner - and not Joe Project Manager -- is supposed to own the answer to Business Question # 1. However, when pinned down, Mary's requirements for the project deliverable and desired business benefit are too vague to work with. Since Joe is a good soldier, he lets Mary off the hook and decides that the blind people (he and the team) will figure out what's really needed. In other words, Joe caves in and takes over Mary's responsibility for answering Business Question #1.

In the meantime, Mary has a business to run. Even though she does not know what she really wants out of the project, this does not deter her from giving Joe a firm deadline and budget. Interpretation: Mary has just picked Joe's pocket by stealing ownership of Business Question # 2: What will it take to do it? Bottom line: Insanity reigns -- The most disadvantaged person is now running the other person's show. And what's worse, neither of them realizes what has happened.

Is this happening to you? Here's what to do:
  • Do the Business Owner a big favor. Make a list of all the unknowns that will likely impact the schedule and budget. Use this to educate the Business Owner as to the unpredictability of the project.

  • Clarify that you own Business Question No. 2 : What will it take to do it?

  • Insist on having representatives of the customer organization available throughout the project in order to uncover and evolve the true requirements. Point out that this will provide the answer to Business Question No. 1: Who needs what and why?

  • Indicate to the Business Owner that Go / No Go points will be set up so that s/he can make on-going decisions in answer to Business Question # 4: Is it worth it. In this way, s/he can keep in control.
This all takes courage. That's what it takes to run projects these days.

eXtremely yours,


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