I’m currently reading the book Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder by Nassim Nicolas Taleb. The term “antifragile” seems obvious in its meaning: the opposite of fragile. Robust. Unbreakable. But it means more than that. In his introduction, Taleb defines “antifragile” in this way:

“Some things benefit from shocks; they thrive and grow when exposed to volatility, randomness, disorder, and stressors and love adventure, risk, and uncertainty. Yet, in spite of the ubiquity of the phenomenon, there is no word for the exact opposite of fragile. Let us call it antifragile. Antifragility is beyond resilience or robustness. The resilient resists shocks and stays the same; the antifragile gets better”.

As an example, a champagne glass is fragile. A concrete floor is robust, as it cannot be damaged easily, but it also doesn’t like damage. So, it would not be defined as antifragile.

Your muscles, however, are antifragile, because they actually suffer from lack of damage. If you don’t stress them and give them small amounts of damage, they don’t strengthen.

Antifragility and Project Management

How can the concept of antifragility be applied to your projects? By using time tracking, you can identify the stress points of your projects so you can make them stronger over time.

Here are three ways to make your projects antifragile:

  1. Break big projects up into smaller ones. This allows for more experimentation. The larger a project is, the more likely it is to suffer catastrophic schedule slips. Use this method to work on the most difficult parts of the project first in order to find out, as quickly as possible, if the whole idea isn’t going to work. In a nutshell, if the project is gonna fail, make it fail fast.
  2. Track time on milestones. This way, you can know ASAP when milestones are running late. If you’re 10% into a project and you’ve used 20% of the time allotted to get there, you will never catch up! You can decide to kill it now, get more resources, or change the scope; but take action early.
  3. Take advantage of optionality. Leave yourself open to the possibility of getting much greater gains out of the same amount of effort. Projects can be constructed in such a way so as to limit your potential gains; but, what if you find something powerful that you could have taken advantage of but chose not to – just to meet a schedule? For example, if you create a new technology it might be worth it to the firm to spread the news (even if that takes time and slows down the project a bit) so that the whole firm can win from the new knowledge gained.

For your projects to be successful, not only in terms of completion, but profitability and your sanity, tracking time is absolutely essential. It will only serve to make your projects and processes stronger, more flexible, and more agile. It tests the stress points of your projects so you are better informed for future projects.