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Mothman Rides Dynamics NAV Implementations on Halloween

It is Halloween time again, where witches, goblins, and all sorts of scary creatures travel the world frightening the dickens out of us.

Image of a carved Jack-O-LanternGrowing up in the mid-west I still remember watching the Wizard of Oz on Halloween night. My cousins and I would sit in front of the black and white TV, watching Dorothy’s house fly through a tornado and drop suddenly into Oz. All too real for kids that were terrorized by real life tornados and were forced to run to basements during storms in the middle of the night.

In addition to the Wicked Witch of the West we also have Mothman. Mothman is a legendary creature that was first sighted in the Point Pleasant area of West Virginia during the 1960s. People describe Mothman as being a flying man with a 10 foot wingspan and glowing red eyes. Mothman was made popular by John Keel in his 1975 book The Mothman Prophecies.

Keel claims that Mothman is linked to a number of supernatural events and specifically the collapse of the Silver Bridge over the Ohio River at Point Pleasant. During rush hour traffic on December 15, 1967 the Silver Bridge collapsed, and over forty six cars fell into the river. People at the time connected the sightings of Mothman with the Point Pleasant disaster. People said that Mothman’s visit was a sign of impending doom.

Was the sighting of Mothman near Point Pleasant a common-cause or special-cause variation to disasters in the area? W. Edwards Deming defines “common-cause” as usual, historical, quantifiable variations while “special-causes” are unusual, not previously observed, non-quantifiable variations. Mothman may have been visiting the area unnoticed for centuries. Perhaps many of the prior disasters could have been prevented if people had linked Mothman and disasters together long ago. If Mothman has been an occasional predictor of disasters then this event would be classified as a common-cause variation. If the appearance of Mothman and this disaster was a onetime event, and the previous sightings of Mothman were simply a build up to the bridge collapse, then this event could be classified as a special-cause variation.

As Microsoft Dynamics NAV project managers we need to be thinking about our unplanned project events and risks in Deming terms. When variations in the project plan occur, are they common-cause or special-cause variations of the plan? When unplanned events occur, we tend to want to adjust our plan to compensate for future occurrences of the same event. Sometimes, adjusting our plans to compensate for special-cause variations can lead to additional unplanned consequences.

Recently on a Dynamics NAV implantation the project plan called for using an outside contractor for a specific phase where non-Microsoft software needed to be installed and configured. During the implementation it became apparent that the sub-contractor was having difficulty communicating with the project team. The team was unclear as to the path the contractor was taking to achieve the project goals.

Was the contractor’s failure to communicate a common-cause or special-cause variation? Not having used many contractors there was a lack of historical information to base an opinion on the subject. The event may be a special-cause and be a onetime variation, or the event may be common place with software contractors interfacing with teams like ours. If we removed the contractor and replaced the contractor with another third party contractor, we might find ourselves in precisely the same situation as before or worse. The gut reaction would be to replace the contractor; but would that really be the right decision?

Tonight, as you stand at the door handing out Halloween candy, ask yourself; was the manifestation of Mothman prior to the Silver Bridge collapse a common-cause or special-cause variance?

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