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It’s all relative anyway

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Badconsultant has been enjoying some meetings of late with a project team that has spent many months planning for a reasonably large event

[cue reality shock]

which can really be described at best as a semi-serious fart in the middle of particularly noxious and virulent hurricane season. Of course, the team has taken it all very seriously, planning to the last crossed ‘T’ and dotted ‘I’, contingenizing

[made up words are cool]

every contingent with a contingency plan of contingentious proportions, just plain-old working the microsoft project to death.

They have every reason to be very proud of what they’ve achieved and will achieve in the weeks to come.


Some bastard called Einstein had to go and intrude with his general theory of relativity.

Roughly speaking, time and space is governed by the perception, not by reality. The observer makes the rules. Anything and everything has happened, will happen and did happen all at the same time.

If we’re wrong, don’t bother telling us, there is no such thing as right and wrong.

Which is why this team held another meeting today. To discuss the outcomes of the previous meeting. And the decisions taken two meetings’ ago. Which were based upon guiding principles that had to be restated four months ago because the team had forgotten that they’d drafted guiding principles at the start of the year. Which in itself was odd because the project had been running for a year by then.

And then, to cap it all, someone uttered the immortal phrase:

“Do we have a business case for this work?”

A multi-year endeavour. Millions of dollars of investment. Blood, sweat, tears in no small amount of buckets. Imminent implementation and true business impact.

“Do we have a business case for this work?”



“Well, obviously not!”


[except for the bells ringing every time the dollar signs flashed in badconsultant’s Tex Avery eyeballs]

Because no-one would call the behavior. The avoidance. The just plain fear of actually getting stuff done. We have written recently about People Innovation (®), and of the fact that only about 1 in 4 of a company’s employees bring in the majority of the earnings each quarter. And it is this statistic, this small piece of relativity that sent this project team into free-fall.

The observer makes the rules.

And the project team, on the verge of major success, suddenly became very aware of the observer.

We’ll give you one clue.

They have grandiose offices, do very little and earn mega-bucks for creating the illusion of hunky-doryness.

Got it? Of course you have, you’re a connoisseur of everything badconsultant by now.

Project teams would be able to get so much more done if they just didn’t have to work with leaders. Because as soon as they do, the general theory of relativity kicks in. The observer makes the rules.

And the project team knew that the executives that had signed of the project at the start, and who are still in role now, would have no latent memory of ever having discussed the project before. And that, despite one of the best laid plans ever laid in the history of plan-laying, the project team would be accused of dereliction of duty, falling asleep at the wheel and, worst of all, not considering its executive stakeholders.

No wonder the project team started retracing its steps, revisiting its decisions, reconsidering its intent. The observer makes the rules and, in this particular case, succeeding in actually making time go backwards.

Einstein’s general theory of relativity stands as one of the great theoretical constructs in scientific history. Many eminent scholars, and even more not so eminent armchair physics professors

[hey babe, want to come back to my place and discuss quanta?]

have spent countless hours trying to make sense of the abstract nature of Albert’s theorem.

When all they needed to do was watch the impact an executive ego can have on any well-structured, well-planned project.