Consequences of the concept of Minimum amount of transferred knowledge

This is part 2 of the post “A project metaphor – The Mine field” and continues on the various concepts explained there.

The concept of minimum amount of transferred knowledge can be equated with the parameter experience from previous voyages. The difference between them is their tenses. Where the former describes something that should be documented, the latter describes what is available. If the project manager, along with the project specifications, got a reconnaissance of the terrain he will soon bring his project across, he would be able to plan and adapt to the already known parameters.

  • The direction of passage across the minefield might be possible to affect so that the known mines/obstacles in the terrain are avoided
  • The size of the minefield might be constrained or used in a different way if knowledge from previous voyages across the minefield is taken into account
  • Group composition may be adapted to fit the known terrain
  • The time pressure of the project might be possible to affect by changing the project specifications due to previous experiences, especially given the increased awareness about the amount of time-consuming mines in the minefield

As seen here the parameter experience has a very strong impact and is very likely to affect the project end-results. What limits the usefulness of this parameter is if the company uses something like the concept of minimum amount of transferred knowledge or not.

Let’s look at this from an economic perspective. In a project budget, time is money and in the minefield every mine is something that slows down the crossing and therefore costs money. What then is the most costly of; an unidentified mine, a false identified mine, an identified mine and unexploded mine?

It depends on how they are documented!

Unidentified mine

An unidentified mine cannot be documented other than as a suspicion of its existence. Maybe based on the documented density of the mines that actually are detected. The mine is therefore not costly for the newly completed project – but possibly for the next.

Falsely identified mine

A falsely identified mine might be costly both for the newly completed project and the next ones if the identification resulted or will result in substantial limitations of the project and future projects. If there is an uncertainty about a mine’s authenticity it might actually be worth a try to “sweep the minefield” to see if the mine really exists.

Correctly identified mine

The confidently identified mines are only costly if, despite the documentation, they’re detonated again by a future project.

Exploded mine

A detonated mine has already resulted in a project cost increase and should never be a cost again. There will be no additional cost for documenting the detonated mine as in the other three cases. Here the cost is already worked off by the detonation itself or as part of the total project cost. What instead becomes a cost is if the mine is not documented sufficiently and therefore detonates again for a future project.

Reading between the lines of the above cases, one notice that it is all about expanding the project specifications concept of cost. If obtaining a minimum amount of transferred knowledge is included in the project cost framework, then the project manager won’t feel stressed by the need to document. It’s already written off!

Herein lays the essence of the problem: Project Managers wants reconnaissance in the form of experience from previous projects. But, how do you get your project managers to document the project’s minimum amount of transferred knowledge when you barely can afford to spare them more than a few days before their next project must be started?

The problems start to pile up…