Since companies sometimes tackle projects that they have no hope of completing successfully, your project might be completely wrong for your company. How can you tell whether your project is a fit for your company?
Canada Geese like to land on water, though sometimes they will land on ice, snow, or grass, if necessary. They never even try to land on twigs, as sparrows do. They're too big for that, and webbed feet aren't much good for gripping twigs. Canada Geese do some things well, and others less well. Somehow they know what works for them and what doesn't. They stick with what they do well. For goose or gander, a twig landing might be the last dumb move it makes.
Unlike geese, companies sometimes tackle projects that they have no hope of completing successfully. So there's always a chance that your project is wrong for your company. How can you tell if your company is a goose trying to land on a twig? Here are five factors that can keep a project from being the last dumb move your company makes.
- Organizational experience
- Flocks of geese know their territory pretty well. They know from experience where to find food and shelter. Make sure that your project is like something your company has done before. If it's a radical departure, keep it small.
- Staff experience
- Goslings spend their first summer of life learning from their elders how to be geese. They train hard until they know what they need to survive. Use your experienced people as mentors. Have them show the others, and use every project as an opportunity to transfer skills and to practice. If you don't have enough experienced people, hire more.
- Failure shouldn't threaten the enterprise
- If a goose did try to land on a twig, it couldn't hold on. It would fall, and it might break a wing or leg. Geese don't try to land on twigs. If you don't successfully complete your project, failure shouldn't threaten the existence of the enterprise. A bet-the-ranch proposition is a bad bet.
- When it's time to migrate, migrate
- Geese stay in a place as long as it meets their needs. When it gets too cold or too hard to find food, they move on. Even though a project is compatible with what your company has done before, it can still be a mistake if the marketplace has moved on and left the company behind.
- Stretch projects should be compatible
- Unlike geese,companies
sometimes tackle projects
that they have no hope
of completing successfully
- Geese are large, in part, because they eat leaves and grass and have to process lots of food. If a goose wanted to land on twigs, it would have to be small, which would require a change of diet and lots of evolution. "Stretch" projects can help adapt a company to changing markets. But choose stretch projects wisely. A project that's inherently incompatible with what the company already does well isn't a "stretch" project — it's a "break" project.
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For more about Canada Geese, visit the Web site of the US Fish and Wildlife Service Horicon National Wildlife Refuge or the Stillwater National Wildlife Refuge Complex.
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More articles on Project Management:
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about project teams. Most are available to borrow from the public library, and all are great fun.
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guidelines for reducing risk management risk arising from risk interactions and change.
- When Change Is Hard: II
- When organizational change is difficult, we sometimes blame poor leadership or "resistance."
But even when we believe we have good leadership and the most cooperative populations, we can still
encounter trouble. Why is change so hard so often?
- The Retrospective Funding Problem
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organizations don't. But even among those that do, retrospectives are often underfunded, conducted by
amateurs, or too short. Often, key people "couldn't make it." We can do better than this.
What's stopping us?
- The Ultimate Attribution Error at Work
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See also Project Management for more related articles.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming January 22: Disjoint Awareness: Bias
- Some cognitive biases can cause people in collaborations to have inaccurate understandings of what each other is doing. Confirmation bias and self-serving bias are two examples of cognitive biases that can contribute to disjoint awareness in some situations. Available here and by RSS on January 22.
- And on January 29: Higher-Velocity Problem Definition
- Typical approaches to shortening time-to-market for new products usually involve accelerating problem solving. Accelerating problem definition can also help. Available here and by RSS on January 29.
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