The concept of unintended consequences can easily be applied on a small scale to the project work we touch every day.
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Issue #5

Unintended Consequences (and more)

I’m writing this at 10pm Pacific, Thursday night—a full few days later than I typically prep this email newsletter, yikes. It's been a week. On Tuesday night I returned from London, where I spoke last week at Ground Control. It was my first time in London and truly an amazing experience, although all I’ve managed to do since I got back is complain about jet lag (gah).

The conference came at a key moment for me: I’ve between project contracts, taking time to write, focus on what I do and how I do it, and breathe a bit as I find more work. The inspiration of being surrounded by 100-plus brilliant and diverse project managers in an international setting really gave me a lot to think about, and the conference brought up some interesting, broad themes connecting what we do with how we interact overall as human beings.

Project management intersects with everything
I love studying and learning about the intersection of technology with people and our society—I have a master’s degree in a not-well-known field of study called STS, which also happens to be wildly relevant to the interactions we have with technology as digital project managers. The conference and conversations I had over the last week resonated with me and reinforced themes that I’m intensely interested in. These themes have slowly gained more public traction over the last year or so, and can be applied directly or indirectly to the work we do as project managers.

Unintended consequences
The concept of unintended consequences can easily be applied on a small scale to the work we touch every day (web projects, minor project and code decisions, the impact and use cases of our web projects), all the way up to “disruptive” startups that have seen or created major political, economic and social fall-out, like Uber and Airbnb.

Here’s a good (and old) Quora post with some thoughts on unintended consequences in recent technology, a very short list from Psychology Today addressing consequences regarding the wide availability of being “on” through technology, and a bigger, darker article about Silicon Valley’s role in the Trump presidency—all as a result of unintended consequences.

Other themes and good reading:
  • Acknowledging privilege and making space for diversity and inclusion in our work and tech is hugely important. Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack (PDF), referenced by Meri Williams in her Ground Control talk is a good and eye-opening read into privilege.
  • Debt comes in all forms on a project: technical, content, and project management-based. I reference the idea of content debt all the time, because it's so common on web projects. Project management debt is real too, though less talked about.

Have project news or articles you'd like to share?  Hit reply and let me know.
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