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Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Project Outcome Slicing


The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret
of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks
into small manageable tasks, then starting on the first one.”
                                                     -- Mark Twain

     Good for you, Mark. The essence of process management is identifying the pieces, putting them in order and getting under way. So simple and logical to talk about . . . but often so hard to do. Or not the right thing to do first. Here’s why.
     Small, simple things generally are not intimidating, and they’re easier to take care of than large, tangled things. So we do lots of small, simple things – sometimes even when we really should be taking on the big, scary challenge instead.
     But there is a way to tame heavyweight challenges, and Mark Twain has put his finger on it . . . but a little lightly.
     You can waste a lot of time and effort, in little doses, by doing small things and hoping they’ll eventually accumulate into solutions for the big things. They won’t. Hoping, like wishing, is a favored preoccupation of those who don’t get much of anywhere.
     Mark Twain may well be the greatest American writer of all time, but he did not rank as high in process management. His formula gives us the how of success, but it omits the what. Without clarity about the desired outcome, an efficient production process can hustle you all the more quickly to failure.

     I want to know more about that complex overwhelming task he’s referring to. Have the complexities been accounted for before the breakdown into small manageable tasks?
     Complex overwhelming things have a lot of parts, and the really big ones involve numerous parties who have differing expectations. There often is significant conflict among the various desired end results, and therefore over what to do to settle on the right one – and then get to it.

     Sounds like a project to me.
     Projects are processes, all right, but they’re processes with large helpings of uncertainty and risk.  Caution is called for. But projects are typically short of time – in fact, the whole reason for doing whatever it is may be shot if a tight schedule is not created and kept.
     And it must be handled without, of course, missing a few sharp corners in the complexity and without damaging quality. In short, it’s not all that simple.
     What to do?
     Go to the root of success or disaster. The potentially most damaging single factor in any complex enterprise is failure of consensus among the key decision-makers. If they are bought into different outcomes, nothing will get done.
     You have to have a goal before you can have a meaningful process. If you’re in the catbird seat, you’re the one who finds ways to get them to agree on what they’re willing to support. Negotiation, often difficult negotiation, precedes process development.
     Once you’ve got common agreement on a mutually agreeable outcome, the Mark Twain effect can be invoked. You slice the complex overwhelming thing into ever-smaller helpings until you get to the digestible-pieces stage.
     The slices of the outcome can come in varying sizes, depending upon complexity, unfamiliarity, resource availability, etc.

     But first, a question: What if I’m the only one here? It’s my complex overwhelming thing, involving others maybe only as resources and providers. It’s up to me to do the work.
     Complex and overwhelming can be intimidating. This is where avoidance and procrastination can kick in, and often – very often – do. The pie-slice approach works very well in pulling me out of that overwhelmed feeling.  
     Try it. If you’ve been disappointed at how much you’ve been able to accomplish, you’ll be surprised at how productive you can be. Mark Twain can get you started. Outcome slicing can get you finished.

     Anyone who pays attention to personal productivity is bound to come up with some fresh, do-able ways to get things done. I'd really like to see yours. Please add it as a comment. Thanks.
     
SEE ALSO: Procrastination
http://jimmillikenproject.blogspot.com/2014/11/procrastination.html#more


 

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