I used to work with a colleague who was constantly on the lookout for the best project management and productivity tools. While I admired their dedication to continuous improvement, their tendency to start and then abruptly stop use of a given PM method left a trail of unfinished mini-projects in their wake. Think abandoned Kanban boards, broken links to shared file repositories, outdated to do lists, and fragmented task managers. The bewildered team (myself included) veered from one tool to another, unable to acclimate to any one method. Rather than using PM tools as just that—aids to improve project management—the person got bogged down in the various imperfections of the shiny new method they were piloting that week. They were procrastinating on the project management.
I get a lot of questions about which tools I use to manage. I’m happy to answer those questions (in a future post), but I suspect that is not what these inquiries are about. Implementing a tool that may work for someone else does not guarantee that it will work for you.
I recently spoke at the annual Project Management Symposium associated with the Washington, DC chapter of the Project Management Institute. One of the common themes across the day’s presentations was the notion of experimentation. More than one speaker cautioned the audience not to run out and spend a ton of money on the latest PM software without doing their due diligence. It’s not that there is anything wrong with any of these products—the tool is just likely to work better if you’ve sussed out your requirements prior to incurring the costs. Several project managers shared that they created their own low-tech “tool”, refined it over time as they identified additional tracking needs, and, once the tool had been operating successfully for a few months, sought out commercial products that aligned with these requirements.
To return to the example of my colleague, as annoying as it sometimes was to keep pace with their new ideas, they were right to want to make things better. Where they tripped themselves up was that their forays were not about refinement of an existing method—they were about trying the latest thing, just because it was available. When selecting a project management tool, don’t obsess. Start somewhere, pick something, and gradually make it better as you acquire additional information.