Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Thoughts of Marcus Ting-A-Kee

From start to end (‘A quest to understand things big and small... or how to survive as a Business Analyst and beyond’):

Marcus Ting-A-Kee writes:

“In a few of my blog posts I've written about how important it is to adjust your presentation and communication to your audience. In effect, you were telling them, What's In It For Them. It's all about creating a relevant experience to sell an idea, product or concept.

Now let's step back and examine this WIIFM concept applied to another situation. Have you ever worked on a project where you have an idea on how more success can be achieved if the project team were to work more collaboratively with other project teams and personnel? In my experience the typical project manager response is, "It's not my problem," or, "It's outside of my scope," or, "It's someone else's problem." Then you step back and watch the car crash in slow motion; the problem manifests itself and severely impact the project and company as a whole.

I liken this to Adam Smith's (the Father of Economics) "invisible hand."

"As every individual, therefore, endeavors as much as he can both to employ his capital in the support of domestic industry, and so to direct that industry that its produce may be of the greatest value; every individual necessarily labors to render the annual value of society as great as he can. He generally, indeed, neither intends to promote the public interest, nor knows how much he is promoting it. By [p]referring the support of domestic to that of foreign industry, he intends only his own security; and by directing that industry in such a manner as its produce may be of the greatest value, he intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention. Nor is it always the worse for the society that it was no part of it. By pursuing his own interest he frequently promotes that of society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it. I have never known much good done by those who affected to trade for the public good. It is an affectation, indeed, not very common among merchants, and very few words need be employed in dissuading them from it." (Adam Smith, The Wealth Of Nations)

Basically, this means each individual acting in his (or her) own self-interest will lead to a better outcome for the society as a whole; or WIIFM but on a project-scale. The problem with this is simple. No one ever builds roads and the infrastructure to connect things because it's in no specific person's best self-interest; but that's not my problem. Is it?

I'm not saying expand a project's scope, merely understand how a project fits in with the big picture.

Ingenious, especially as he follows the text with a lovely photo of heavy road roller flattening a recently hot-tar laid road surface. From there he implies that the project manager who sees the big picture can enlist co-operative action from those suppliers needed to deliver it by inducing in them ‘what’s in it for me’ (WIIFM) thoughts.

However, what does this have to do with the truncated quotation from Wealth Of Nations? (WN IV.ii.9: p 456) Very little, except it allows the author to invoke the ever-popular ‘invisible hand’, of which I am often called upon to write about here.

For the record, you may care to note that the WIIFM question would provoke answers, and presumably bilateral discussions, about the prices that the project manager might offer to the WIIFM audience for their co-operation. Nothing ‘invisible’ about that is there? We call it negotiation in price determination, otherwise known as markets. As argued many times, Smith’s sole reference to the invisible hand in Wealth Of Nations was not about markets.

But, let’s be fair. Mr Marcus Ting-A-Kee has presented an original way of getting the attention of his suppliers, without too much of an atrocity against Smith’s use of the famous metaphor.


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