“Rustle in the Bushes!”

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“Rustle in the bushes!”132

What does that phrase conjure in your mind, in your memories?  It may not be tied to any specific event or place in your past, but it may have a connotation or mental picture associated with it.

In my memories, I remember hearing a tale in which one person yelled “Rustle in the bushes,” and his companion immediately jumped to a conclusion and yelled, “Snake in the grass!”  So, whenever I hear “Rustle in the bushes,” I immediately think, “Snake in the grass.”  OK, maybe my mind is somewhat twisted, but that’s how minds work – by association and neural linkages to our experiences.

Yesterday evening, as my wife and I were returning home from grocery shopping, we drove up a winding mountain road.  In one switchback, I immediately noticed a mahonia bush shaking.  My first thought was “Rustle in the bushes!”  But then I immediately pointed and said to my wife, “Bear!  That bush is shaking – Ah, there he is…”   We watched the young bear walk from behind the bush and head down a nearby driveway.  We stopped and watched him for just a few minutes before heading on home.  So, maybe it’s a bear getting the berries off of our mahonia bushes at home!  We had just assumed that the deer were eating those berries…

As project managers, we have to always be conscious of any “rustles in the bushes.”  These rustles are indicators of disturbances in the project.  Some of the rustles we may immediately recognize from our previous experiences – historical information from other projects in our organizations.  Maybe the rustle is a third-quarter guidance memo for a reduction in all budgets.  That may have a familiar sound to it – an easy rustle to recognize and respond to.

Other rustles need a closer look.  Upon inspection, you might associate the cause with a similar rustle in your database of historical information (or OPAs – organizational process assets).  Others may be new disturbances that may result in the creation of new approaches, policies, or standards in your organization that will shape future planning of future projects.

As we manage projects, or even prepare for the PMP® Exam,  remember that the familiar “rustles in the bushes” conjure approaches and best practices, even lessons learned, from our past experiences – our historical information.  Rely upon OPAs in planning as well as controlling your projects.

For the new “rustles” – disturbances that have no precedence or validated approach – remember to do your homework before deciding how to handle the situation.  Gauge the impact of your decision – assess the influence of your decision on the schedule, the budget, the project scope, quality, and risk.

As I close this post, I wish for you that the “rustles” in your projects are gentle and attributable to a comfortable, cool, refreshing breeze.  OK, Zac Brown and Jimmy Buffet – put that in a song!