The Half Life Of Facts

When you are managing a project, you need to make sure that your assumptions are correct.  That may require you to spend a significant amount of time on determining what those assumptions are.  Because facts and situations change and can do so quite quickly.

Have you ever wondered why doctors keep changing their minds every few years about what the best food or exercise or medication is?  Or picked up as science textbook that’s your child is using in high school and realize that’s a lot of the things she is studying are
different than you remember?  That is because new research is constantly occurring which is rendering old facts and knowledge you very irrelevant or just plain wrong.   In fact, in medical school, they tell you half of what you are about to learn won’t be true when you graduate — they just don’t know which half.

Some “facts” that have been disproved over time:

  • the earth is flat
  • the earth is the center of the universe
  • ulcers are caused by stress
  • there are nine planets in the solar system

Think about how fast things are changing now. Think about how you consume information. Only 10 years ago, you were getting all of your information from the Internet through a computer. Now, most people get a very significant part of much more information, and do the bulk of their communication, through their smart phone.  Applications and the software that is available now was unheard of 10 years ago.  There are things like driverless cars and a large number of medical techniques using robots and laparoscopic surgery that surgeons could only dream of 10 years ago.

The same thing is happening in your business. It doesn’t matter which field you are in. Even completely unrelated to the technological realm, even what we know about wild bird nutrition has advanced significantly in the last 10 years.

When you start your project, you need to work from a baseline. And you need to have as much knowledge about that baseline as possible.  Depending on what field you are in or what you’re trying to do this could mean a small amount of research or this could be a significant part of your project.  After all you do not want to end your project with a solution that is obsolete. U especially do don’t want to arrive at a conclusion that was obsolete before you started your project.

And things may very well change during your project. I worked on a software company on a project.  We were about 2/3 of the way through the project we found out that another team had written some really great code with a new version of software that we wanted to incorporate.  That meant an extensive rewrite of the work we had already done.  But it was the best way to proceed at that point to produce the best outcome.

The pace of change and the modern world is incredibly rapid.  There is a high likelihood that you will have to change course on a project because of some technological innovation or change in your customer demographics or some other reason. And
it is unlikely you will get every assumption correct at the beginning of each project, especially the more complex ones. So be flexible and ready for those kinds of challenges.  It is your role as project manager project manager to calmly and safely guide your team through the turbulent waters of change.


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