People are not relative


I have come to the conclusion that it is no longer worth arguing with people over relativity of anything. Is my project relatively important in the grand scheme of my company? Of course…what are you crazy! Is my biggest supplier strategic? YES! Should we make sure all of our TPS reports have cover letters on them, and is it important that we do so? I think you know where we are going with this. Try telling someone that something is not important, and you are likely to get a lecture about why it is important including a eye-roll inducing slew of logical-sounding reasons. There will, however, be an absence of any concrete evidence that it is more important than something else that you could be doing.

The curious part though, is that people often understand this when looking at a situation from the outside, but not from the inside. The same person that understands priorities for another company, will cling to their notion that a particular project or individual piece of work is important in his/her own company.

It is well-documented that people do not understand relative amounts of money. For instance $1 million is not (in people’s minds) 10 times as much as $100,000…they’re both just a lot. However, for a while, I had some hope that people could handle relativity outside the realm of numbers. No longer…

What are the implications? Well, there are thousands of people running around trying to execute thousands of little projects inside every organization, and no one has the courage to say “no…let’s put that one aside and focus on this other one.” If we did one tenth of the projects we currently undertake, but fully resourced and managed them, our organizations would be better off. Part of it is that the leader of the project that is put to one side will lose politically, and part of it is a general overestimation of what can be done well (*note – The Tolstoy and Taleb in me also forces me to state that there are a myriad of other reasons as well).  I guess I get my perspective from my dad who used to say something like “things always take longer than you think.”


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One Response to “People are not relative”

  1. Key business decision? Poll the room « It's more fun than a TPS report… Says:

    […] It's more fun than a TPS report… Procurement, negotiation, the business of sports, and whatever else I feel like blogging about « People are not relative […]

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