Tragedy of the commons…

Tragedy of the commons...

At many levels in business and society there is competition between individual gain and collective good.

There is a paradox, or an incompatibility, an incongruence, a conflict – whatever it is, it is there, and a balance needs to be maintained for optimum performance for the collective.

Imagine that you are a seasoned construction manager, you have many successful projects under your belt, successful judged on the amount of money you made the company and how quickly you finished. But you had to sacrifice quality and safety in order to do it.

You have been lucky so far, no one has died, and the defects haven’t been found, yet.

But imagine you’re the owner of an international construction company, you have a large portfolio of work, many jobs on the go with many clients. Many hundreds of thousands of people work on your sites day in day out. Instead of 1 maverick you might have 200.

It’s now statistically more likely that someone dies and the defects are serious.

Trying to persuade the individual maverick to slow down in order to benefit the whole is a difficult conversation that needs careful and precise planning and from an individual perspective, may not make sense.

Just as trying to persuade the individual to wear eye protection, when all their history tells them they have never suffered an eye injury is not a good argument for the pain it causes the collective if that worker loses their eye (never mind the pain of losing the eye).

There has to be enough fish in the village pond left to feed everyone. Enough toilet roll to go around. Projects managed as portfolios not individual successes.

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