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Good ol' rock

There is a Simpson's episode when Bart is confronted with a game of Rock, Paper Scissors (AKA: Jan Ken Poi, ro sham bo ...) and thinks to himself "Good ol' rock". Meanwhile his opponent is thinking "poor Bart, always chooses rock". So what does this have to do with Project Management? Nothing, except that often people go to what they are familiar with, to what they are told is going to be a winning solution or what they have won with in the past. Of course, what makes it funny is that Bart continues even though his choice loses constantly - he is attached to it for some magic reason.

Maybe it is not so much a stretch to think this is true of other people too. I can imagine some people thinking "Good ol' PMBOK" while they pull their copy off the shelf. Of course, going with what you know or what has worked in the past is a very common thing to do. If the situation is truly the same, then the solution that worked in the past should continue to work.

But sometimes the situation is somewhat misleading. Sometimes it looks the same on the surface but is different underneath. Greenland is an example. When the Norse first arrived there it looked on the surface that it was a fertile place on par with their native lands, but over time it was found that the soil was not the same glacial deposits of home and was instead a thin covering and did not have the same fertility and capacity for sustaining agriculture that their homelands did. Of course their solution for survival was the same sort of pastoralism which worked back home and eventually it ended up failing them and they disappeared from the island. Oops... should have taken up whale hunting...

One approach to dealing with the limitations of rocks is to continue to improve or polish them. The Stone axe was a mainstay of many cultures. It was refined in shape and material to be a very useful tool. Yet now it is merely a curiousity in most cultures. Somehow people switched over to something different and better and now we make axes out of steel. Quite an advancement one would say. We can use our technology to make something perform better. We see this line of thought in some project management tools. We add new features or take advantage of new technologies - a better database, better networking, faster machines etc.

But it totally ignores one thing - that is that an axe is not that great for fishing. Sometimes the situation seems like the problem is something an axe may be useful for, but a closer or more insightful look might find that a fishhook is called for if the solution is something which is sustainable.

I guess the point of this is to convince myself that even the most polished rock is not enough. A bag of rocks may be even better, but better than that is time to really assess the situation and a bag of diverse tools from which to draw from, tools which might fit the situation better than good ol' rock.



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