Saturday, April 20

Why You Should Take the Blame - Peter Bregman

Bit amusing son but true. I'm seriously guilty of this. Blaming others. It's very easy and becomes the default reaction. Not good. 

One of many things that I need to fix. 



Why You Should Take the Blame - Peter Bregman - Harvard Business Review

I was at a party in Greenwich Village in New York City. It was crowded, with about twice as many people as the space comfortably fit. There was a dog in the mix too. But it was a casual event and we all spent a lot of time in the kitchen, cooking and cleaning.

I was at the sink washing dishes when I heard the dog yelp behind me. I turned just in time to see a woman curse at the dog as it dashed out of the kitchen. She had obviously just stepped on his foot or tail.

“Watch out!” she shouted after the dog, then saw me looking at her and added, “He’s always in the way.”

Really? You step on a dog and then you blame the dog? Who does that?

Thursday, April 18

Why are women less democratic than men?

Curious, whilst I had heard that there is a clear and statistically significant difference in women versus men voters, I never really delved deeper into it. This paper gave some interesting learning points for me

    1. in developing countries women tend to exhibit less support for democracy than men
    2. the two sexes behave differently in politics, as they vote differently and do not implement the same policies
    3. The evidence for Sub-Saharan Africa indicates that, on average, 73 percent of men believe that democracy is preferable to any other kind of government, while only 65 percent of women agree with this statement
    4. It is well established that men and women vote differently, with women tending to support more left-wing parties;
    5. Three reasons have been put forward as explanations of gender differences in preferences for parties and policies: women’s greater risk aversion and the consequent desire for insurance; women’s lower incomes or expected incomes, for example following a prospective divorce, leading to support for redistribution; and a preference for social expenditures such as basic infrastructure (e.g. water supplies), health and education that impact the production of household goods, including children, on which women tend to specialize;
    6. Evidence for India shows that the type of public goods provided depends strongly on the gender of the local political leader, with female leaders investing more in goods linked to their own concerns, such as drinking water, and spending more in public health provision
    7. the work on corruption and gender has highlighted that females are less likely to be involved in corruption and in bribes and that increasing the share of females in the political arena and, more generally, social equality between men and women reduces the degree of corruption
    8. in countries with a sufficiently high level of the Human Development Index and political rights there is no significant difference in the replies of the two sexes. Such evidence implies that the observed gender gap in democratic support does not capture intrinsic differences in the preferences of men and women but rather that it is highly dependent on the economic and institutional climate in which women live
    9. An alternative hypothesis is that women’s lower support for democracy comes from the fact that democratic transitions are often associated with civil conflict. If women have a higher cost of conflict than men, then they are less likely to support democracy. Our analysis seems to point in this direction. When asked whether the country’s leader should be chosen through open elections, women respond yes as often as men. However, they are less likely to support party plurality and limits on re-election. It is possible that these two aspects are seen by women as sources of potential conflict and hence as the ’down side of democracy’, which would explain their replies to the broader question of whether they think democracy is the best possible regime

Very interesting results indeed. Not much to say other than transitions can really be challenging but it takes a long time for women to recover from transitions like this….something that can actually make their lives better – democracy – has lower support because of high transition costs..

Wednesday, April 17

Why Your IT Project May Be Riskier Than You Think

So true.

the lessons learnt are golden, project managers should print this off and stick it on the wall in front of their desks.

1. Stuck to the schedule, even after the merger
2. Resisted changes to the project’s scope
3. Broke the project into discrete modules
4. Assembled the right team, including It experts from both companies, outside experts, and vendors
5. Prevented turnover among team members
6. Framed the initiative as a business endeavor, not a technical one
7. Focused on a single target, “readiness to go live,” measuring every activity
against it.

Specially #6.

Tuesday, April 16

Advice To Little Girls

Dear Diya

here is a lovely poem from one of my favourite authors, Mark Twain, called Advice to Little Girls..

Good little girls ought not to make mouths at their teachers for 
every trifling offense. This retaliation should only be resorted 
to under peculiarly aggravated circumstances. 

If you have nothing but a rag-doll stuffed with sawdust, while one 
of your more fortunate little playmates has a costly China one, 
you should treat her with a show of kindness nevertheless. 
And you ought not to attempt to make a forcible swap with her unless 
your conscience would justify you in it, and you know you are able 
to do it. 

You ought never to take your little brother's "chewing-gum" away 
from him by main force; it is better to rope him in with the promise 
of the first two dollars and a half you find floating down the 
river on a grindstone. In the artless simplicity natural to this 
time of life, he will regard it as a perfectly fair transaction. 
In all ages of the world this eminently plausible fiction has lured 
the obtuse infant to financial ruin and disaster. 

If at any time you find it necessary to correct your brother, 
do not correct him with mud--never, on any account, throw mud at him, 
because it will spoil his clothes. It is better to scald him a little, 
for then you obtain desirable results. You secure his immediate 
attention to the lessons you are inculcating, and at the same time 
your hot water will have a tendency to move impurities from his person, 
and possibly the skin, in spots. 

If your mother tells you to do a thing, it is wrong to reply 
that you won't. It is better and more becoming to intimate 
that you will do as she bids you, and then afterward act quietly 
in the matter according to the dictates of your best judgment. 

You should ever bear in mind that it is to your kind parents that you 
are indebted for your food, and for the privilege of staying home 
from school when you let on that you are sick. Therefore you ought 
to respect their little prejudices, and humor their little whims, 
and put up with their little foibles until they get to crowding you 
too much. 

Good little girls always show marked deference for the aged. 
You ought never to "sass" old people unless they "sass" you first.

Nice one, you are already such a lovely little princess and you do all this and more :) I specially liked the 2 and 1/2 dollar bargain bit with your brother, perhaps you can try that? I did burn my little sister with a magnifying glass once, she still complains to me about that, so that lesson obviously stuck :)



Monday, April 15

Delusion and Deception in Large Infrastructure Projects

managing project costs are an integral part of project management. I've handled projects which are fairly large, up to 2bn in size and yes, you may expect costs to be straight forward.

but when you are talking about multi year horizons, zillions of factors, tons of unknown unknowns and known unknowns and even bad estimation of known knowns (nod to rumsfeld), you usually go off piste very easily. the first estimate usually is low to get it approved and then the snowball happens..typical..people expect me to have a crystal ball to know costs exactly. when i talk about estimated costs for projected benefits, they turn around and say, deliver the same benefit for 20% of the costs. No, you only get 20% of the benefits for 20% of the costs but lets start..

so when I read this article, I wasnt surprised. I quote the conclusion

Large infrastructure investments are a vital component of any public or private
institution. Unfortunately, cost overruns, delays and exaggerated benefits are the norm
rather than the exception for roads, bridges, stadiums, concert halls, new plants, etc.
Although large infrastructure projects occur frequently across the globe, any
individual project is often a once in a career decision for a public or private executive.
Thus it is difficult for executives to learn from their own prior mistakes. It is rare for
executives to deliberately learn from similar projects other have attempted. Typically
executives to adopt an inside view of any particular problem – where they focus on the
specifics of the case at hand. Without the opportunity to learn from rapid and
unambiguous feedback regarding their estimates of costs and benefits, executives can
hardly learn from these unique decisions and avoid making similar mistakes in future
projects. In such situations, inside view thinking leads to numerous cognitive biases that
result in optimistic delusions.
These, often individual, optimistic delusions are confounded, sometimes even
dwarfed, by the magnitude of strategic deceptions among the different actors in the
system. On several occasions, however, decision makers have attempted to justify their
deceptive behavior by arguing that the decision was in the public interest. On one hand, it
can be argued that public-sector executives may decide to deliberately underestimate
costs in order to provide public officials with an incentive to cut costs and thereby to save
the public’s money. According to thistype of explanation, higher cost estimates would be
an incentive for wasteful contractors to spend more of the taxpayer’s money. Empirical
studies have identified executives and planners who say they deliberately underestimate
costsin this manner to save public money.67 Merewitz endorsed and summarized this
viewpoint as “keeping costs low is more important than estimating costs correctly”

On the other hand, a second explanation in terms of public interest covers the not
uncommon situation where project promoters believe their venture will benefit society
and posterity. They feel that they should do anything possible to make the project happen,
including cooking forecasts of costs and benefits. Both types of public-interest
explanations see the end (project approval) as justifying the means (estimates of costs and
benefits that show the project should be approved).69
However, these arguments overlook an important fact. Underestimating the costs
and overestimating the benefits of a given project results in artificially high benefit-cost
ratio, which in turn leads to two problems. First, the project may be started despite the
fact that it is not economically viable. Second, a project may be started instead of another
project that would have yielded higher returns had the actual costs and benefits of both
projects been known. Thus, for reasons of economic efficiency alone, the argument that
cost underestimation saves money must be rejected.70 As a case in point, an ex post
benefit-cost analysis of the Channel tunnel between France and the UK showed that the
actual net present value of the project to the British economy was minus US$17.8 billion
and the actual internal rate of return minus 14.45 percent. The study concluded that “The
British Economy would have been better off had the Tunnel never been constructed”.71
Because delusion is often accompanied by strategic deception, this study’s
prescriptive advice has been broken into two parts. First, we focused on best practices to
diminish strategic deceptions (e.g. P-A issues) in the specific context of infrastructure
projects. Next, we examined how executives can adopt an “outside view” of problems by
using reference class forecasting. This statistical procedure uses both a forecaster’s
intuition and historical data to mitigate the two types of errors and arrive at a more
accurate estimate. The American Planning Association has recommended this procedure
for large infrastructure projects. Its widespread use would surely produce more accurate
estimates of large infrastructure projects and projects like Toll Collect and the Channel tunnel would be profitably and happily foregone by the vast majority of the public. Ultimately, accurate reference class forecasting, proper incentives and budgets are the way to go.

All I can say to this article is, hahahahahahahahah

dream on.

Also see this rather interesting paper on planning of large infrastructure projects.