A Cautionary Project Management Tale: The Three Little Pigs

16 Sep 2016

A Cautionary Project Management Tale: The Three Little Pigs

Once upon a time, there were three little pigs, so the fairy tale goes. Now the pigs knew that the big bad wolf (let’s call him Wolfie) frequented their neighborhood and was fond of pig products – hence their project objective was clear: to build a shelter to safely house and protect themselves from snapping jaws.

Cheap and Fast

The first little piggy, lets call him Ham. He decided to build his house of straw, a cheap readily available low-grade material. Construction was fast and costs were low. Indeed his own labour, a couple of hour’s tops, was his primary expenditure.

Marginally Better Quality

The second little piggy, lets call him Pork. He decided to build his house of sticks. Sticks were a mid-grade material, also readily available, though the time required for material collection and construction was longer than for Ham.

Project Success? The Cost of Poor Quality

Both Ham & Pork delivered their projects under budget and ahead of schedule. Exceptional project management some would say! The retired to their respective new homes to enjoy some leisure time: scratching, reading the Pig Daily and watching Pepper Pig and Babe on repeat.

Sadly their storied end badly. Wolfie came knocking at their door, huffed and puffed, and ultimately blew their houses down. Wolfie was so hungry he just popped Ham on a sandwich with mayo, tomato and a slice of jarslberg cheese, before gobbling him up.

Pork had a different fate, winding up the piece de resistance in a pork roast with apple sauce and all the trimmings. If only they had put greater emphasis on quality in their projects they may have avoided inadvertently supporting the meat industry and lived a long and pig-happy life. Perhaps some of the property developers in our modern age could take a leaf out of their book and build their apartment developments to last. But that’s another story.

Fit for Purpose

The last little piggy, lets call him Pig. Pig took a different approach to his project. He procured only the highest-grade durable materials for his build – bricks – indeed the property was double brick with glazed tinted windows and a state of the art security and media system. Pig knew that the project would only be successful if it delivered to its objectives, outcomes and benefits.

It is true that Pig blew his budget and had to take out a home loan with Piggy Bank Ltd to cover his costs, which included materials and also contractors to assist with the build and ensure he delivered his project on time. Still, on the day that Wolfie came looking for a snack, Pig was very satisfied that his project was a raging success. Wolfie huffed and puffed so much that he went blue in the face (not easy for a wolf) whilst the house stood proud and strong and Pig watched the whole affair from his security camera, safe inside, munching on pig-corn and laughing with his friends. Pig used the intercom to eerily whisper ‘Little wolf, little wolf, I am watching you’ and Wolfie, terrified of the ghostly encounter, ran off into the woods.

Pig became famous for his exceptional project management skills and consulted with other pigs in the area at exorbitant rates, helping him to pay off his debts and become a very wealthy little piggy indeed.

Focus on Strategy and Benefits

This tale illuminate’s the natural tension between time, cost and quality as per the scope triangle and the importance of strategic decision making and problem solving during project planning and implementation. Poor Ham and Pork focused only on project delivery (i.e. building a home on time and on budget) but failed to meet the project’s required quality standards (i.e. build a safe and durable shelter) and thus no project benefits or positive outcomes were realised. If only they had linked their project with their broader strategy their story may have ended differently. They could have elected to collaborate with Pig, pooled their resources or even outsourced the project build to him, benefiting from his innovative approach and vision.

The story ended happily ever after for Pig (sadly not for Ham or Pork) who spent his days rolling in his internal mud bath, enjoying his media system, consulting on exciting pig-property development projects and being visited by his lady friend, Miss Piggy (Kermit was blissfully unaware).