Management by Random Drop

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Management by Random Drop

Projects start up and projects get cancelled and (till now) no-one really knew why.

People have postulated all kinds of reasons for project cancellations: economic downturns, economic upturns, change of purchasing trends, lack of change in purchasing trends, the arrival of new technologies, the staying power of old technologies, etc., etc.; one or more of these "reasons" get invoked to "explain" why projects end up cancelled.

Be that as it may, we have here a simpler model that seems to fit observed reality rather well. In this model, projects have an inherent ``half-life'': when the project's time is up, it gets dropped by upper management.

The model

Consider the following 3 step model of project management:

Model Finite State Model
Step Stage Participants What
1 Proposal Engineering team, Management The engineering team proposes a cool idea for a product that will make millions of $, Rs, Baht or other currency.
2 Random Wait Manager

Management makes a non-committal response and waits a random amount of time. Some management styles encourage their managers to produce an intermittent buzzing noise during this time, to convey to the team that they are working.

The engineering team starts work.

3 Drop! Manager Manager says "No!". The project gets cancelled.
random drop model

The job of the engineering team is to get the product finished and in the customers hands before the "No!" descends.


There is the rather well-known statistic that about 60% of projects started in the typical software company get canned before they complete. This situation is even considered normal by some.

The conventional model of project management is one of far-seeing captains guiding the company through difficult market straits. This may even be true, but I like my model because it is far simpler and has about the same level of accuracy in predicting the fate of projects.

Survival Strategy

Since projects can get the axe at any time, the only reliable way of getting the project out of the door is to have finished the work before going to management for approval.

Then, once approval is granted, you use the time gained to work on the next project :).

Last Modified: Sat Apr 21 22:53:24 2007
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