Needle in Haystack Part I – the problem

Needle in Haystack
Needle in Haystack?

One of the problems I have faced repeatedly in not just project management but in a wide variety of scenarios (even at home) is what I call the ‘Needle in Haystack’ problem. Say I am the manager of a project where the task is to find a needle in a haystack. I assign the task to Mr.X. He comes back after three days and tells me there is no needle in there. I am confronted with three possibilities:

  1. He actually spent three days actively looking for the needle and was unable to find it. There is indeed no needle in there.
  2. He actually spent three days actively looking for the needle and was unable to find it. There is a needle there, only he was unable to find it (the methods may be not very efficient for example).
  3. Mr.X went on a movie watching spree 🙂

The real problem here however, is that in order to find out which of the scenario is factual, I will have to find the needle myself – and maybe spend three days myself. There is no benefit obtained through delegation.

One course of action, obviously, is to seek evidence from Mr. X. A bus ticket from office to the haystack for example.
Another is to find a way to verify if there is a needle or not, in say 3 hours. In most cases one of these solutions is possible, but is hard to find. In the next few postings on this topic I will share case studies around this, to give you some ideas around it. There is no magic wand though, everyone needs to invest thought.

All postings in this series will be accessible through this link: http://blog.2cent.me/tag/ndlinhstk

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