I love science. Statistically speaking (i.e. in the vast majority of the cases), science is reliable, straight forward, and provides the tools and techniques required to understand or explain various human endeavors.

I was thinking about it  in the context of the effort that we, humans, need to expand in order to just keep things running smoothly. More specifically, I was pondering the amount of human capital and human emotions required to keep projects on track, ensure that deliverables are produced on time, keep people’s well being and attitude under control, etc, etc.

The reality is that substantial effort needs to be spent just to ensure that things progress OK – or in other words, keep the lights on.

Ensuring optimal performance under tight and pressured conditions require even more effort and management talent, without which meeting objectives would be a definite challenge.

So, why is it?

Well, embrace yourselves, because it is all about the second law of thermodynamics.

The Second Law of Thermodynamics states simply that:

S(t+1) >= S(t) S(t) = k*ln(w) where S is entropy, t is time, ln is the natural log operator, k is Boltzmann’s constant (1.38E-23 J/K), and w is the number of quantum states in the isolated system (see http://www.talkorigins.org/origins/jargon/jargonfile_s.html)

OK, OK, just kidding.

imageThe Second Law of Thermodynamics states simply that systems have a universal tendency to gravitate towards disorder (see a more detailed definition in http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_law_of_thermodynamics).

This law has got profound implications when applied to managing projects as it clearly implies that unless effort (i.e. energy) is applied on the various aspects of the project activities, there is a high degree of certainty that processes will fail to deliver.

We all know it from our own experience. Things don’t just happen. Business Cases, Business Requirements, Functional Specifications, Design documentation, Code execution, test plans and test executions; they all need to be constantly monitored, controlled, co-ordinated and fine-tuned, as even with the best up-front planning and collaborated approach, making sure that things progress as planned on path to a successful completion is most often far from being guaranteed.

This, by the way, links very tightly with a concept discussed here earlier – The Murphy Law. Understanding that “if something can go wrong, it will” is all but a logical extension to the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

Think about it as it is this law that is more likely than anything else to drive your plans.

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  3. Everything decays over time. The variable is the timeframe And the manner in which that decay will occur. The more complex the ‘thing’ the more varied the way in which the decay may occur. Without maintenance that decay will just accelerate. Think of our own bodies. A project is no different.

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