That’s the car I learned to drive in (and my sister in it). It’s a 1969 Renault R10. It had no options, and no features. There was no “advanced” version. Standard transmission. Manual choke. Air-cooled, rear-mounted engine. AM radio.
When that became my car in the mid-70’s, I learned the joy of not having anything advanced. The 4-speed manual transmission meant that when my brakes were fading, I could slow down to a crawl just by shifting gears. When the starter died, I could do a Fred Flintstone start by sticking my left leg out the door, getting the car in motion, and popping the clutch to start it. (Note: Park on hills. It’s easier).
As a consultant, I loved the fact that people forever wanted to do the “advanced” program. Particularly on risk management. We’d like to present our people with an advanced risk management training. I asked them how successful their conventional internal risk program had been. Most didn’t have a conventional internal risk program, but they still wanted to jump to the advanced content.
I’ve gone through a lot of treatments with my cancer, and I’m thrilled that they’re working. My radiation oncologist (Dr. Michael Morris of Glen Burnie) was very excited about a new line of treatment for neuroendocrine tumors. He had me forward my lab results to determine if I was a candidate for this new, more advanced, cutting-edge treatment. I had an interesting letdown. I was too healthy to qualify. I couldn’t do the advanced.
Lessons Learned: Whether it’s a car, a training event or personal wellness, sometimes the “advanced” will work against you. Before determining that you’re ready for the cutting edge, make sure you know that the dull, tried and true aren’t more in your favor. Test the historically successful approaches first. There’s a reason they’re historically successful. Ask yourself this three-question quiz before seizing on the cutting edge:
- Have you already tried using a classic approach or an approach that is well-proven and -considered?
- Does the cutting edge provide potential benefits that the tried and true have never achieved?
- Are there other underlying reasons to give up on well-established (albeit potentially boring) approaches?
You, like me, might find yourself a little disappointed if you can’t answer “yes” to all three questions. Because if you can’t answer “yes”, then you need to go back to what’s tried and true.
There are few things in life more boring and tedious than the old school. Teaching project scheduling in a classroom setting, the explanations of critical path management don’t generally send students into euphoria. And yet, when they understand their ability to influence the critical path, the schedule and the utility of their time, few approaches become more exciting. Advanced risk management may take you down the road to Monte Carlo, Latin Hypercube and other statistically driven approaches. But standard, vanilla risk management may point you to common risks, common solutions, and cost avoidance. Those are good things! It may not be fun to tell management the requirements may be unclear, causing delays and rework. But it’s the single most common risk on projects (per PMI®) and the one most likely to bite your project in the behind.
The other side of non-advanced risk and project analysis is that it points to the concerns that hit us every day, rendering them likely to be ignored.
In our last house, the floors were gorgeous, 100-year-old honey oak. For the most part, they were unstained and undamaged. There was, however, a single splinter of wood between the kitchen and the living room that had a nasty habit of catching my socks. Nancy would regularly inquire why my socks were damaged and holey, and I had to confess that it was the splinter I never bothered to sand down or putty over. Month after month, socks were destroyed. Month after month, it was a small enough concern that I could put it out of my mind. The day finally arrived, however when I came around the corner out of the kitchen and raised the splinter on another pair of socks. But this time, the splinter continued its journey into the ball and then the instep of my foot. After a couple of hours in the emergency room, the splinter was removed, and I was back home, remediating a situation I could have fixed months earlier. The wood putty was drying in the hallway in no time.
Too often we seek out the intriguing, haunting, exciting, meeting-worthy risks over the pedantic. Yet those pedantic, non-advanced risks with non-advanced responses are the likely culprits in causing us and our projects pain and grief.
When someone suggests to you to adopt advanced practice in almost anything, it’s important to go back to the three questions cited earlier. And remind them that while the little annoyances and “splinters” seem like things we can deal with as they surface, they take away from the core efforts of our projects and our lives. And eventually, our on-the-fly remediation for those risks will look foolhardy. And an advanced, complex, untested solution will seem like an early opportunity to kill the proverbial fly with a sledgehammer.
Up next? You could do a better job, but at what cost?
If you want to review the previous elements of this e-book or blog, they’re all posted at www.carlpritchard.com/blog
If you have insights you’d like to share or comments or conversations, my e-mail is the best way to reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll always get back to you within 24 hours. Always. And if you think I missed the mark? Check your spam folder. Thanks for joining me on this journey.