Monday, June 23, 2008

Ambiguity and Project Management

Like the blind men of Indostan, going into a project, no one can see what’s going to happen. PMs put together a project schedule of the tasks they think will need to be done, the resources they will need and some estimates, but rather than thinking of this like a plan, think of it like shopping for a camping trip. The provisions you get don’t tell you anything about where you’ll go camping, what you’ll encounter, where you’ll camp or what bears or dears you will see hiking.

It’s only when you start out on the hike that you discover blisters, have to pick paths, need to make decisions about pitching camp at 3:00 pm or pressing on in the hopes that there is a better campsite that you’ll find before 6, so you have time to set up before you start making dinner.

How do you get insight from your team into the trip? How do you find out whose over-energized and anxious to do more, whose getting blisters, whose feeling sick and whose actually been camping here before?

What about the collaborators? The park rangers, store owners, even the other campers. I bet they’ve been through this before. They can take one look at you at 3, and say if the road ahead is mountainous and you should rest before going forward or if it leads into a fresh valley that’s best seen at sunset.

That is the type of insight one needs to succeed. That is what we are working with our customers to provide.

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