Just Do It
I found the article below interesting as it discusses the idea that in new projects, specifically those that may be in unfamiliar or unpredictable environments, it may be better to simply act instead of analyzing.
This concept makes me think about our class assignment to build a structure with uncooked spaghetti noodles and marshmallows and how our team reacted (and failed miserably) to that project. We took the first 25% of the project time to map out our strategy, sketch out our detailed design plans, review our budget forecast for materials, and create a rough work breakdown structure. We assigned tasks to team members such as collecting specific supplies, breaking noodles into correct sizes for our base and support beams, configuring the correct marshmallows (small or large) in the right sections, and monitoring the time we had left to complete the project.
So what went wrong? Within the first minute of the ‘build’ stage of our project it was clearly evident our design was not going to be successful. Even though we had mapped and planned out the entire project in detail, and we had two professional engineers working on the project, none of us had any experience building a structure with uncooked noodles and marshmallows. What made us believe our unproven ‘plan’ would be even remotely successful to follow?
The article goes on to discuss the concept of “learning through action” and the steps a project manager can take to move forward, making right and wrong turns, to learn more about the eventual correct direction for the project. The project manager is not ‘flying blind’ in the project, but instead moving carefully into action by simply starting and evaluating the results.
Act: Take a smart step toward a goal.
Learn: Evaluate the evidence you have created.
Build: Repeat Act and Learn steps until you accomplish your goal, opt to change direction based on findings, or discover the goal cannot be competed.
The paper examines how the old methods of planning, forecasting, analyzing, and allocating for new and uncharted projects simply do not result in success. Instead, the authors discuss some points to consider in using the act-learn-build concept above.
Stay within your Acceptable Loss
The act-learn-build model is inherently low risk, but not risk free. Within each phase consider how much you can lose in terms of time and money and still continue moving forward.
Secure only the Commitment you Need for the Next Step
Instead of asking “How do I get everyone committed to my idea?” ask, “What’s the least amount of commitment I need to act?” The idea is to have just enough freedom to continue to explore the concepts.
Make it clear to management this is a proof of concept rather than full scale project plan.
Have you ever experienced something similar with being on or managing a ‘new’ project at your company? Do you have examples where the Act-Learn-Build method may have been a better approach to a project?