Ed Wilson: The problem with Frankenstein

It is a real shame that most people have never read Mary Shelly’s book, Frankenstein. Indeed, for most people, the sum of their exposure to Frankenstein is as a cheesy, grainy, black and white movie with a monster that moans like a harpooned seal, and looks like some sort of Halloween factory reject. Shame indeed.

Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein is an allegory, beautifully and terrifyingly written, in which a scientist, Victor Frankenstein, bored with academia, gets caught up in the brilliance of his creation. The subtitle: A Modern Prometheus, provides a hint along this line. The tale stands as a stark, and terrific warning against uncontrolled scientific enquiry. But, Victor Frankenstein’s problem, is not so much the scientific inquiry, as it is bad science. Here is a short listing of his failings as a scientist:

1. No peer review. He labored in secret, hid from his father, and isolated himself from his colleagues. In other words, “he went rogue.”  This is often one of the first signs a manager has that one is beginning to have problems: missing meetings, failing to return emails, working odd hours, not returning phone calls etc.

2. No beta plan. His first attempt was an 8 foot monster. How different the entire outcome would have been if he had created a 1 foot monster, instead a super human.

3. No maintenance plan. He gave the monster life, and then abandoned the project. The monster was born super sized, and yet he was an infant. Victor Frankenstein had made no plan for raising and for educating the monster. The entire tragedy set into play because the monster was rejected in his attempts at friendship, and he had not the emotional maturity to handle the rejection.

4. No contingency plan. He creates an 8 foot monster, and has no plan to deal with the monster should anything go wrong – dude, talk about poor planning!

5. No remediation plan. Ok, so the first monster is a failure. But does this mean you throw away two years of research. The project itself has a number of successes.

So, Victor Frankenstein’s problem is that he isolated himself from the scientific community, believing that he and he alone could understand and could control his research. At the same time, he failed to follow any sort of project management technology. At Microsoft, we have two project management solutions. The first is called the Microsoft Solutions Framework (MSF), and it is aimed at Software projects. The second framework is called Microsoft Operations Framework (MOF) and it is designed to work specifically with infrastructure types of projects. Obviously there is overlap between the two solutions; before MOF, I used to use MSF with infrastructure projects … and it worked just fine.

When talking about writing scripts, I use MOF to keep me on the right path. In fact, MOF was the framework I used in my Microsoft Press Windows PowerShell 2.0 Best Practices book. By taking a systematic approach, you can avoid the horrors of running a system wide script with no peer review, no beta plan, no maintenance plan, no contingency plan and no remediation plan.

Comments (3)

  1. soder says:

    This post is a clear sign you work for an over-regulated behemoth company, like Microsoft. Brainwash procedure successfully finished.

  2. cesar riquelme says:

    Enlightment, that is a real piece of advice.

  3. lesle says:

    What a great trivia question!  What was Frankenstein's first name?