Like many others I was interested and fascinated when the BBC, for the first time, published payments made from licence fee revenue to people working under a contract for services; specifically, those paid £150,000 or more were included.
The resulting commotion across the TV, Radio, Newspapers, Twitter etc has been interesting to follow and for me reinforced some behaviours that project management professionals should always be aware of.
How many projects go wrong because the parties involved fail to normalise the language that is being used within a project environment? I have seen it so often when people are at crossed purposes because they each have a different understanding of a situation though they are using the same language to describe it.
The BBC website showed a great example with the following headline:
The BBC has, for the first time, published salaries of its highest-paid stars – with all those earning £150,000 or more included.
To me the word ‘salary’ immediately makes me think of someone who is an employee of an organisation who is on a contract of employment and taxed PAYE through the payroll. In fact looking up on Google I see the result “fixed regular payment …..made by an employer to an employee”
The official BBC document is explicit that these payments are made under contract for services which is generally defined as “used for appointing a genuinely self-employed individual such as a consultant (or a profession or business run by that individual) to carry out services for another party where the relationship between the parties is not that of employer and employee.”
So, we have much shouting about salary, employees etc (which may be great for a headline) but would appear to be somewhat removed from the truth?
Maybe the headline should have been:
The BBC has, for the first time, published the cost of its highest-paid stars – with all those directly costing £150,000 or more included.
Data without context is dangerous
Projects create lots of data (hopefully) which allows for decisions to be made in way that reflects some form of the truth and reality. It is therefore important that all data has a context that allows it to be read in a way that is consistent and not open to multiple interpretations.
So, going back to the BBC list, we have 3 elements of context, namely Cost, Gender and Role.
Unfortunately, it fails to include any context about effort expended by each individual which to me is a pretty important factor in deciding the relative merits of money spent on each individual.
A great example of this is the situation Dan Walker found himself in where he is on the list, but his regular co-presenter was not. The immediate conclusion is that he is being paid more than his colleague who is doing the same job! Of course this would be wrong (illegal) if this were the case so there must be some more context which has not been provided such as he undertook other activities including FA Cup work and Football Focus which contributed to his cost? I am guessing here, because I have to, but wouldn’t it be nice if I didn’t have to?
Well time to get back to reading more about the BBC, but hopefully these two points are worth reinforcing into good PPM practice.