I have heard that “the apple does not fall far from the tree.” I was reminded of the concept recently as my family gathered to celebrate my birthday. My daughter Lauren is the office manager for an industrial lighting equipment supplier, and she and I often discuss things like watts, volts, and even LEDs. I find this quite interesting because Lauren is a graphic designer and artist, not an electrical engineer like her Daddy!
Lauren told us that she is giving a gift to a friend for her new home, and Lauren decided to build a lamp. So, she headed off to the local do-it-yourself home improvement warehouse. She told us that she was amazed at all of the different parts on display for building your own lamp! She studied this display and thought about the lamp design for 2 hours! She was still in awe as she described her experience. She left the store without buying anything that day because a whole new world had been opened to her; she needed to go away and think more about the lamp to be designed and built, now armed with all of the new possibilities she had discovered!
Now for that apple and tree analogy – I pointed out to Lauren that she now understands how her Daddy can spend hours in such a store! Many times the designs in one’s mind are modified ad hoc while in the store selecting the components needed. Bouncing back and forth among the aisles for electrical, plumbing, hardware, and tools! (Maybe a snack bar would be in order for these stores?) So many more alternatives are opened up to you as you see what other choices are available that you had not considered.
This is a rich lesson as we consider project management. As plans come together to create the project deliverables, many trade-off decisions surface as we balance the required scope with the incurred cost and the schedule constraints. In fact, two planning processes are specifically documented in PMI’s PMBOK Guide as using the planning techniques of Alternatives Identification (for the Define Scope process in Scope Management) and Alternatives Analysis (for the Estimate Activity Resources process in Time Management).
We don’t have the luxury during project planning to go to the resource aisle, then the techniques aisle, and then over to the money aisle to see entire displays already grouped together for our specific project needs. But hopefully we have the next best thing – subject matter experts and experienced team members that already know the whole project store pretty well. As we meet to discuss the project requirements, we can visit the various aisles of the experiences of our team members to consider alternatives to how we can create these deliverables. We can consider the various combinations of human skills, materials, tools, and techniques to bring these resources together into the optimum solution for meeting the project requirements on budget and on schedule.
As a project manager, wouldn’t it be cool to walk out of a project planning meeting in as much awe as Lauren at the talent and resource capabilities of your team?!