There is No One Right Way

 

I’ve been thinking a lot about some of my clients’ problems managing their projects. Two of my clients are stuck on the notion that there is a silver bullet, one right way to solve their problem. Then I read Steve Norrie’s blog entry this morning, and saw this quote: “Nothing is more dangerous than an idea when it’s the only one you have. — EMILE CHARTIER” .

When you have only one idea, you end up with institutionalized best practices. Some practices are good sometimes. None are best all the time. When you have multiple ideas, you can choose among useful practices.

One client is looking for the one-and-only project plan template. Argh. I asked, “Are all your projects the same size and duration, requiring the same number of the same kinds of people?” The people around the table looked at me as if I’d grown three heads, and said, “No, of course not.” I asked, “Why do you want only one template then? Don’t you want guidance about what you need to write in a project plan so that the bigger projects have more in the project plans and the smaller projects have less? That the more risky projects deal with more of the risks and the less risky projects don’t?

I’m all for project plan templates. Having a place to start can be very helpful for many of us (including me). But we need to guide people to thinking instead of blindly filling out forms, planning a project the One And Only One Way.

The value we bring to our companies is our brains. Let’s use them. Let’s think of at least three alternatives to each problem, not stopping at the first One Right Way.

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