Olav Maassen, Chris Matts and Chris Geary wrote the book Commitment. Novel about managing project risk. It’s the first time I read a graphic business novel. And I must say I really liked it. To get a story and underlying techniques both in word as in graphics. great! See the bottom of this post for a sample page from the book to get an idea.
In this graphic business novel we follow, during a period of six months, Rose Randall who was forced to take over a derailed project. She struggles to manage her project and her personal life. With help from her sister she enters the world of real options and how to make use of them in her project (and her life).
TED talk by Sheena Iyengar: How to make choosing easier
The book is divided in seven chapters and an epilogue. Every chapter includes one or more pages in Susan’s diary explaining what she has done and a blog post from her sister, herself or others explaining the theory used in the chapter.
I will not go into the details of the story but I will summarize the blog posts to understand the issues Rose is facing.
In Post 1 we get and explanation of different types of options: financial options, embedded options (e.g. operational tolerances, phased contracts) and real options. The real options are the choices we have in the real world (our life, the projects we run, …). The fact that you still have a choice, an option, has value too. At a certain point the option is no longer available. It can expire based on time passing or an event. Never commit early unless you know why. At that moment you don’t have an option or choice anymore.
Post 2 is about relationships and knowledge options. There are many ways to learn and information is offered to you in a large variety from reading books, reading the excerpts, or going through the content paging in search of unknown topics and finding a mentor to help you. Knowledge options acknowledge the value of being consciously incompetent about a specific topic and the time it takes to become consciously competent in that topic.
Post 3 focusses on the fact that clients value the option that they can change their minds too. Think about a product backlog where the client can add items to the list and prioritizing them while you are working on the top five or six.
The next post explains a visualization board, how you can create one following the process steps you take (Kanban board). Hidden queues, bottlenecks, capacity management and board patterns are explained using the TOC by Eli Goldratt.
The following post is all about staff Liquidity. Better to have shorter iterations of development than one single big one. The delivery risk will be much lower when having shorter iterations. Having a project with several iterations gives the sponsor a set of options (preliminary stop/no believe in benefits, early stop/benefits achieved, increase investment/more benefits, change direction) and makes the project much more flexible. As a consequence we probably need to make changes in staffing (adding or removing). The time it takes to scale up or down is measured as staff liquidity. What options do you have to deploy your staff? What are your key man dependencies? Start allocating staff with the fewest options (less experienced) first, and let most experienced staff coach.
The final post is about scenario planning. Scenario planning is all about real options. It pre-dates options by many, many years. You prepare yourself, your organization, for the possible and will increase your odds in the future.
A graphic business novel is a great way to bring new topics to readers. I really enjoyed reading this book and recommend this book to all who would like to get a better understanding of real options. You can use them in your personal life or as an instrument to manage your project risks.
In the Netherlands: Commitment. Novel about managing project risk