Corporate Governance and Project Teamwork
A small allegory, thanks to Peter Halas, Quality Architect
The following amusing little allegory by Peter Halas clearly illustrates how
confrontation can quickly cause a situation to get out of control. Occasional
references to IT are included in the story to help IT people understand the overall
working environment. Underlying the story line, however, is a clear message for
project managers and project practitioners generally - as we shall explain later.
Scenario: Final Report from the Body Management Governance Team
In January, the Liver said to the Lungs, "Justify yourself. I do not see your
value". The Lungs were so shocked at this "power play" that they started hyper
ventilating. By February, the brain had to issue a general alert (bio E-mail)
saying that lack of oxygen is starting to affect the entire body, and started
orchestrating a coordinated release of hormones, adrenalin, blood supply constriction
In March, the Brain proceeded to monitor the levels of hundreds of actions
to see, in real time, that they are again doing the job - and issued reports to
the Heart, Kidneys, and Skin, advising them to make adjustments as needed. During
April and May, the entire Body had benefitted from this response. Flows of work
orders were being processed efficiently by all stakeholders, even traditionally
less then cooperative areas such as the Thyroid, Pancreas and Adrenalin Glands
were if not happy, at least not throwing stones.
By June the crisis was over; but in July the Liver that had been relatively
unaffected by all this, and had not really seen (nor fully understood) what had
just unfolded, issued a message to the Brain. Evidently, the Liver had determined
that too large a percentage of the Body's blood supply was residing in the head.
But not only that, the blood was too rich. It knew that other species can live
without so many red blood cells and white blood cells, so it recommended the Brain
cut back its blood supply. Further, it recommended "thinning out the blood" itself
by 14%. (This was a magical number it had learned at a Gartner Executive briefing
on "Offshoring, and IT Cutback Best Practices".)
By August, the Brain, having made these adjustments, was now just in subliminal
mode and the autonomic Nervous System was by then the one really running the Body.
The Brain no longer functioning as before, but was just handling the vital "needs
of the business".
From September onwards, some of the results of the thinning out of the Blood
(i.e. outsourcing, and IT cutbacks) and the fact that there was now less blood
in the cranium began to show (i.e. Willy-nilly IT initiatives, no clear "alignment",
no tools to assist in "governance" structures).
The effects were as follows:
- The Eyes did not see as well and as far down the road as they used to. So
any truck coming in the opposite direction could "blind side the Body" at any
- The Hands did not work as fast and as nimbly, so many items picked up slipped
out of them, were dropped and broken
- When the Body consumed alcohol or smoked, it was so overwhelmed that it practically
shut down. Similarly, it could hardly withstand any competition at all
- Since many other cells did not like the climate that the liver had unintentionally
caused, they started leaving inconspicuously through skin pores, by being exhaled
through the lungs, and yes, when ever the opportunity arose, through the gastro
and urinary tracts. Since metrics were no longer kept of this turnover rate, no
By October, the Stomach was no longer working efficiently because of the new
restrictive (cost cutting) measures, bile that was spewing out the liver was starting
to accumulate. As a result, the bilirubin, biliverdin and haematoidin metrics
were off the charts, and no one seemed to know what to do about it anymore.
In November the Liver started fighting with the Stomach, not realizing that
the Brain was the real reason for the way things being as they were. The fact
is, whether one likes it or not, one cannot ignore the Brain, for it orchestrates
the entire health of the organization and its ability to cope with its environment.
The Body died (went into liquidation) in December.
played by IT (Information Technology)
played by HR (Human Resources)
played by Finance
played by Sales / Marketing
played by Manufacturing and Inventory Logistics
Especially for those in the IT world, does this scenario look familiar? It
is mainly a result of how the various players perceive each other. For example,
there are significant differences between two prevailing viewpoints, namely:
- "IT" as a: "commodity service provider" or
- "IT" as a "strategic partner"
This is not an "either/or" comparison. IT departments need to
be respected, and for the most part, are looked at as falling somewhere on a continuum
between these two perspectives.
But when it comes to IT projects and their management, we can
gather from the allegory the sort of complexity involved. This is where it is
essential to distinguish the difference between managing the technology and managing
the project. You need specialists in each bodily area (i.e. technology) to maintain
the health of each (i.e. tactical management). Then you also need a wellness campaign
(i.e. strategic project management) to ensure that the whole collection runs smoothly.
A "wellness campaign" (i.e. project management) can be as intensive or casual
as you wish (i.e. level of project management ceremony), but without it, things
will quickly unravel. But one thing is clear, it is quite a different exercise
from the brain's day-to-day control (governance) of the body (technology) as a
whole. In project work, project management and technology management cannot be
divorced but they do need to be understood as different disciplines and, where
necessary, managed separately often by different people working together.
1. Peter Halas,
Quality Architect, QuinneTech LLC may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org,
2. References: Gunn Partners (as edited by Peter Halas, Quality
Architect, QuinneTech LLC); meta_Methodology, QuinneTech LLC, Scotch Plains,
NJ; Focus on Dr. Jeanne Ross (MIT Sloan School of Management), A CAI
(Computer Aid, Inc.) State of the Practice Interview, IT Metrics and
Productivity Journal Special Edition, ©2006 (CAI)