Timing - Time Lines

I remember walking back to Fife Park (I think now, thankfully demolished) when I was a Philosophy student in St Andrews and looking at people on the street and thinking "I bet those bastards think time's unproblematic." I'd been reading "McTaggart on the unreality of time." And it had seriously disconcerted me.

And I've been reading about time again just recently, with similarly disconcerting effects. I know this would be something that David Allen, a veteran new-ager (if there can be such a thing) would describe as Wah Wah Woo Woo stuff, but I've been reading about Time Lines and I can't but think that it's very relevant to project management, and to the difficult business of persuading people that Agile is a very useful approach to project management.

OK - just as a bit of fun. Sit down. Feet on the floor, arms are your side. Relax. Think of an event that happened in your past. OK, now can you tell me where this event is? Can you point to it? Right, now arms by your side again - think about something that's going to happen in your future? Where is that? Can you point to it. Try this with other people that you work with, try it with your friends, your spouse. Do they all see things the say way as you do? No? Interesting huh?

The basic finding seems to be that some people "see time" when they think of it, in front of them as a series. Very often running from left (the past) to right the (future). The present is just another slot in the series. Some other people experience time as something that they are in, with the past somewhere behind them and the future somewhere in front of them (that's me).

The road ahead - this is something like what I see (actually turning off to the right) the past is behind me, where it's hard to see.

Some kind of timeline - this is what I think many other people see - and many project managers (click for bigger picture).

I suspect the truth of the matter is that both perspectives are required (otherwise, why are they both so prevalent) and that managing projects effectively means knowing how and when to flip between the two (or maintain both views at the same time). I suspect a lot of project management problems come from being stuck in the wrong view, or insisting on only one view.

What do you think? Let me know, either via mail or in the comments.

For further information, contact Mark@agilelab.co.uk (07736 807 604)

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