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Sunday, May 12, 2013

Six ways to Aviod Big Endian Drama

To much project time and and energy is spent on trivial issues that don't  improve the project result.  I call this "big endian drama" because it reminds me of Gulliver's Travels.  In "Gulliver's Travels" the lilliputians eat boiled eggs with the big end up (big endian) and the King orders the people to eat their boiled eggs with the little end up.  This was the principle issue in the land during Gulliver's stay.

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On one project, I watched two professionals argue for days over the spelling of "database" (No!  That should be "data base").  In the morning one would do a global search for "data base" and change to "database" while in the evening the other would do the reverse.  The climactic ending occurred when one opened the dictionary (paper back then) and demonstrated that "database" was not a word.  Not ready to give up - the other opened the same dictionary to the credits (who knew dictionaries have credits) and noted that the "database administrator" spelled it as one word.  This back and forth, plus argument time, plus Project Manager time burned several expensive hours with no appreciable benefit.

I use a simple "Who Cares" criteria when I find myself getting pulled into this trap.Remembering that it takes two for a contest - what I try to do if I find myself engaging in a win/lose argument is ask "Who Cares?"  If I don't care, and my key project players (Sponsor, steering committee, tech lead, etc.) don't care, and if the decision doesn't materially weaken the project or product - then I agree and walk away.

Like so much Project Management knowledge and practice, this is common sense yet difficult to apply consistently.  Here are my simple rules to avoid big endian drama:

Six Ways to Avoid Big Endian Drama on your Projects

  1. Ask "Who Cares" to avoid participating directly in big endian drama.
  2. Teach "Who Cares" to help your team avoid big endian drama
  3. Intervene early when you observe big endian drama in your project
  4. Model collaborative decision making when possible
  5. Reward collaborative decision making when observed
  6. Reward those who apply "who cares" criteria and walk away

Technical Education Bonus - from the same Johnathan Swift - Guliver's Travels story.  Big Endian indicates storing the most significant digits first when storing a number, little endian indicates storing the least significant digit first.  Go impress you project team!

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