There's an age-old image of project management that looks something like this:
And there have been various adaptations of it --- one I found recently (and appreciated) is this one from Jan Tielens:
What is the actual process that a "solution" goes through? The client dreams up an idea or has a problem that needs to be solved. They attempt to describe it to someone who then attempts to build it. At the risk of anthropomorphizing a concept like a solution:
The Birth: Wow...now this is more like it. I'm not just a little thought in someone's head anymore - I'm going to be great. I'm going to solve the world. Now I just have to figure out...
The Terrible Twos: OK...I can go a variety of ways - I just need to focus on what I want to do. What?!? Who are you? Oh...I have to do it this way....no wait, now who are you?!? This way instead? Argh!!!
Primary School: So I have to do this so I can really be what I want to be. That sucks. I guess you know better - you've done it before. But why can't I.....that works, doesn't it?
Teenagers: No - stop - I'm not listening. I can do it this other way...oops, no I can't. Let me try it this faster way...oops. Damn! I'll pretend I didn't hear the other people telling me I couldn't do it that way.
Technical School: Oh...I can also build that...and that...and that...but I really want to build something a little simpler...
College: Fine. I'll do it your way. Oh, I can't just put a tire on a branch --- I have to put three ropes and a swing mechanism because...oh, I should put three swings so everyone else can swing too...ok. Isn't that really complicated? Oh - I should write all this down. Won't that slow me down? Ohhh....that will make me look smart.
First Job: Hold on...let me take a step back. Maybe there's another way....nope that won't work. You mean, I have to pay someone for this? But I can do it myself....or maybe...not. You know, I should keep a journal of all this stuff.
Second Job: Remember when I thought I could do that....well, now I'm doing something else..but I really want to go back and finish it off....no, I didn't really keep up with my journal because I went through so many steps before.
Bad Contracting: OK. I couldn't do it myself that way- so I'll ask some others to help (now, they get to go through the same steps as above only they BILL me). After I pay you, will you show me what you did and what didn't work? No? What did I pay you for? Why did I spend all that money or all that time?
Good Contracting: OK - I couldn't do it myself - can you do it for me? You've done it before? OK - great. Please just build me what I want. No....this is what I want...OK, this is what you're giving me. How long will this take? Really?!?
Mentoring: OK - I couldn't do it myself - can you show me how you've done it before? Thanks...umm...this might be a little complicated...let me write it down so I remember what we're doing.
Realization: Hold on. Let me take a step back - hit the reset button. What do I really want to do? Let's try it THIS way. Keep it simple.
Upgrades: This is great - You know what would be really cool? If I could just do this. Let me try that.
Sharing: Look what I did?!? You want to join in? Sure, come on in and join the fun.
Sharing Upgrades: Yes, you can all play but only one at a time. Why? Because it was originally for me, only. That's what I wanted. I suppose it would be great if I could have three swings for all of us, but why not just build three separate swings?
Maturity: If only I had kept a single focus. If I knew then what I know now, I would have done d,e,f instead of x,y and z. It wouldn't have cost a fortune.
Mid-life crisis: Maybe I should try and rebuild it from scratch....on second thought.
Bad Senior Years : Hey, young whippersnapper. You can't do it that way. You young ideas - you never really think things through, do you? When I was your age...
Good Senior Years: Hey, young whippersnapper. I don't think it will work that way - let me try and show you how we can do it. I had written up some steps on this...where are they? I can't find them. You know, I'm too old for this...let me try and remember how I did it. Sure, I'll write it down for you.
Sound familiar? It should. What's funny is that when writing this, I can identify a real business process, colleague or technology step in each paragraph. Scalability? Do you really want three people on your swing on a single tree? You want a swing - do you really want to build scaffolding when all you want is a single swing? Kind of reminds me of the 37 Signals Scaling commentary.
Who do you resemble?
In future posts, I'll discuss different ways of getting to success regardless of where your project is.