Scalability and Common Sense

Have you ever watched someone use a canon to kill a fly?  Use a software program to solve a problem that really just needed a pen and piece of paper?  Use a PowerPoint presentation to address a group of one?  Or use an electronic planning tool for a project that needed a simple task list?

We are all guilty, at some stage of our lives, of using the wrong tool in the wrong place or using the right tool in the wrong way.

We need to take a closer look at how we use the tools in our lives and whether or not we need to scale it down.

Paul Bergman contributed a chapter called ‘Scalability and Common Sense’ in the book ‘The Keys to Our Success’ .  He writes, ‘In our zeal to ensure that (project management) tools are applied, we sometimes forget why we are applying them in the first place.’ He goes on to say… ‘We should have in mind the purpose and value of the tools, the target audience, and the success factors most important to the project being managed’

We need to use common sense as we select and use the tools available to us.

A perfect example of this in our world of project management comes in the name of Agile.  It is one of a number of tools we can use as project managers. And then, to what extent will you use Agile in your project?  For many people, a hybrid approach of Waterfall and Agile is the smart approach in many cases.   

These aren’t just technical tools.   Thinking outside the box, we could apply the same principles to tools that we can’t buy online.  What about our speeches, meetings, memos, email messages and reports?   Why are they so long and detailed?  Sometimes short and sweet does the trick.

What about your PowerPoint presentations?  Is it really necessary to use technology to present to three people?  No. 

And when you do present with a PowerPoint deck, you don’t need to put every thought and every word on the slides.  I apply a scaled-down approach to my presentations when I am selling or presenting an idea.  I will present the issue, finding and recommendation within the first few slides and first 10 minutes.   Then I will skim the detail very quickly, making it clear that all of the detail is there and ready to discuss IF required.  Why go through it if we don’t need to?  In effect, I am creating an outline only, and offering the audience the option of diving deeper.  Scalability and common sense.

So here are 5 scalability tips for all of us.

  • Forget your scheduling tool if the project is short, small and involves under 5 people .
  • Forget PowerPoint if you are communicating to under 5 people
  • Stop CC’ing the world on all your email messages.  We only care about the key information.     
  • Try cutting the length of your meetings down by half. If you can’t cover it all – maybe you are dealing with too much detail
  • Agile maybe, Hybrid maybe, neither maybe
  • Don’t use a sledgehammer to put up a picture hook

Remember the words: scalability and common sense.


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