A Placebo, a red pill and a cookie go into a bar

Photo by: Drew Farwell

This story is about the phychological factors and roles influencing the eventual success of a project portfolio. It appears that at least three pills, a cookie and a bar are involved in project success. Read on.

Ok, so have you noticed that we get the most out of other people when we believe in them? I found out it’s the same with project, program and portfolio management.

Say that your board is not well positioned to address governance issues and the executive-level stakeholders have limited strategic insight. Let’s assume that the people with the appropriate organizational knowledge and expertize to establish portfolio selection criteria, review risks and provide insight on how components enable success of the portfolio have negotiated the escalated issues. Maybe the key messages have not been communicated properly to the stakeholders and now your board wants to go on with investments for which supporting evidence exists that they don’t provide any benefits. Let’s also assume that there’s no room for corrective actions. What can you do to help this portfolio succeed?

If you maintain low expectations about the investment, then it will be like dooming your component-specific plans and all the people who have worked for its long-term success. This is called the “nocebo” effect: Patients who have low expectations for medical procedures or treatments tend to have poorer results than those who expect success.

Placebo and nocebo effects are positive and negative outcome expectations that result in positive or negative outcomes, respectively.

But what if you “placebo” the project? Yes, you might still endure that high risk of failing, but the investment will have more opportunities to succeed because you believe it will. The successful implementation of a bad project will always be a bad project. But the organisational benefits can be many: High team morale, satisfaction, and attaining professional accomplishments, to say the least.

“By putting oneself in a positive mental state beforehand, we have the power to alter our reality and how we feel physically from our own thoughts.”

Perhaps, the power of the “placebo” in management is not in the belief but in the action - It makes you feel as if you are in control of a situation and you can make the right decisions even if you know deep down inside that this is not your place.

Contributing to success, such as enabling effective decision making for executive-level stakeholders is not the same as determining success.

Maybe, some of us need to take the red pill instead of a Placebo.

‘The Matrix’ film. Courtesy Warner Bros

I realised today that our expectations about programs/projects shape their outcome. I also realised that it is reasonable to think that you are the One.

Everything around management training is about preparing a manager to become “the selected human being who possesses vast superhuman abilities to drive change and success to the organisation”.

Have a cookie.

‘The Matrix’ film. Courtesy Warner Bros

The One is a three letter word. The One will always be a three letter word.

Sorry to say, if you believed that a manager is the One, sadly you are mistaken. S/he is the enabler who ensures that management is successfully implemented and being the enabler is a great position to be in.

Ok, but maybe some of you will think… PMO is a three letter word. Well, the Oracle said that Neo wasn’t the One. And he was. Maybe you missed taking your Placebo today.

So, the bartender looks at the Placebo, the red pill and the cookie and says, ‘What is this, a joke?’”

Thanks for reading this!

Much of my job boils down to understanding and communicating the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe and Everything. | Find me at zoetrope.gr

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