Methodology and GPS Devices

The other day, the family and I were driving across town to a spot that I wasn’t 100% sure as to how to get to.  I knew that as I got closer, the stores and homes would become familiar and I would find my way, but I needed the GPS to get me started on the right path.  So, I punched in the address and hit “go’….calculating….calculating….drive the following path says the GPS.  Within  1/4 of a mile, I took the GPS and started hitting the arrows to show me the next few turns coming up.  I was curious to know which route it was taking me, so I would be prepared for the turns that were coming.  Sure enough, about half way through our trip I said “this GPS doesn’t know.  Why is it taking us that way?  It doesn’t have the new road they just built up here on Falls.  Honey, you can turn that thing off, I know where we are going now.”  My wife left it on to see if my way was any quicker than the GPS planned route…of course it was!

When it comes to Project Management, some of us are locked into our Methodology-GPS.  Even if the path has been changed, they will follow that GPS right off the cliff! If you are absolutely clueless or simply new to the PM world, then you should of course leverage your ‘GPS’ the first time down the path (or second).  However, you need to pay attention to the development around you and realize a few things about your methodology-GPS…

  • Just like a GPS can be configured for the specific trip ahead (fastest vs. shortest route, skip toll roads, etc), so can your projects (i.e. – triple constraint).  Simply relying on templates may not set you on the most path for your ‘trip’ ahead.
  • Most GPS devices allow for you to get annual updates, so thet you have the latest and greatest features and maps.  In order for us to have the latest ‘maps’, PMs must be continuously studying different methodologies and collaborating with other PMs on best practicies. [cough cough…#PMChat!]
  • Just like new roads are built, old roads are closed, and emergencies temporarily change routes; you must be paying attention to the environment around you.  If you aren’t aware of changes ahead, you may end up making unneeded U-Turns or sitting in traffic for hours.
  • Over the course of time, you get bored with your trip or a detour forces you to take a path contrary to the GPS.  This happens with our PM career as well.  Over time, you will become very familiar with the path/process/methodology and begin to work a different path that you have found to be more efficient.  Sometime it isn’t any faster, but there is less traffic and the ride is much more pleasant, so you take that path.  Sometimes, you have to turn off the GPS and trust your experience.
  • Just like my wife left the GPS on to compare my route to the trusted GPS, so will your clients and/or managers.  Of course I didn’t want to here Jasmin tell me…”You should have followed the GPS.”  I needed to be willing to take that risk and explain why I was taking the route and going against the ‘trusted advisor’.

A GPS is tremendous device when I am in brand new terrirtory, but I am amazed at how often its suggested route is either slower or longer (mileage/work) than the route I hav learned over time.  We can not follow templates and methodologies blindly for every project we take on…how is that different then a tourist following a GPS?  What value are we adding as Project Managers, if we do this?

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One thought on “Methodology and GPS Devices

  1. Good analogy! I can think of lots of GPS/ PM similarities…. the need to ‘recalculate route’ is something that will be familiar to most PMs.

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