Saturday, 27 November 2010

Setting Expectations and Measuring Success


I started a daily meditation a couple of weeks ago to gain Wisdom (Hochmah) and like any good project manager I wanted to do a frequent review to see how things were progressing. Making sure that the check part of plan-do-check-act gets some love and attention. Anyway, the thing is – I had no idea how to measure the success of this working.

Here's the project Management bit about the importance of setting expectations and measuring success,

“One important thing for a Project Manager is to set expectations about the likely outcome of a project or part of a project. It's no use reporting that the status is 'Green' until the last week of a project only to report 'Red' at the end - when the signs were indicating that things were going wrong for at least a couple of weeks. Such as one or more risks actually occurring and adversely affecting the project or maturation of the end product not tracking against a predicted curve.

Metrics are a useful measure of progress towards success, but they can also indicate when things are going off-track. One common problem on projects is that the wrong metrics are chosen. The metrics may have worked on a previous success and been good indicators of whether the project is likely to meet the success criteria or not. But on a different project those same metrics may be partly or wholly inappropriate.“


So let's look at a biblical example of a situation where an expectation has been set – but because the wrong measure of success was applied the project was in danger of going off-target. It's in the story of Joseph when he sold by his brothers and ends up in Egypt that he comes across Potiphar's wife. Rashi explains that the story of her attempt to seduce Joseph is next to the story of Judah and Tamar to indicate that they were both acting for the sake of Heaven.

Potiphar's wife was acting for the sake of Heaven? My first impression on coming across this bit of information was incredulity followed by curiosity. Anyway, Rashi goes on to explain the verse

“And it came to pass after these things, that his master's wife cast her eyes upon Joseph” ( Genesis 39:7)
Why does the Torah adjoin the incident of Potiphar's wife to the incident of Tamar? To tell us that just as Tamar acted for the sake of Heaven, so did Potiphar's wife act for the sake of Heaven. For she saw through her astrologers that she was destined to produce children from him. But she did not know whether through herself or through her daughter (Joseph married Potiphar's daughter, as per Genesis 41:45)

Potiphar's wife had the expectation set by astrologers that her line would continue through Joseph. However, she mistakenly assumed that it would be through her and hence was only focused on one measure of success. Namely how likely it was that Joseph would sleep with her. She tried to entrap him, it failed and she ended up accusing him of attempting to rape her. In the end Potiphar chose not to sentence his servant to death but rather imprison him as he was not wholly convinced of his wife's accusation and his daughter pleaded Joseph's innocence.

So back to my daily meditation to gain Wisdom. Last week my ears started ringing and it sounded like I could hear distant conversation. This got me rather excited as I though that perhaps I was developing some form of remote listening ability or perhaps hearing the voices on the other side of the Heavenly curtain. It turns out though that the ringing in my ears was due to having cleaned them too vigorously with cotton buds and after a few days my hearing was back to normal.

Anyway, lesson learnt is that whilst it is good to reflect and check progress of a working. Making assumptions about the route to success or setting too defined limits on the form in which success can manifest is silly at best and dangerous at worst.