Buying shoes like a Project Manager

As a developer you usually approach any task with a few simple steps: analysis, design, development. It is not a way of working that is given by some hot-shot methodology, it is a basic way our mind works, at least for most of us.

It can be applied even for buying a pair of shoes:

  • first you identify the need or the reason for it,
  • then you decide what type of shoes,
  • you think about a budget,
  • then you think where you could find them,
  • discuss with your partner a day when you want to make the purchase or even ask for approval,
  • get a girlfriend with you,
  • then plan to go shopping on a particular day,
  • and finally you do it and sometimes buy a different type of shoes.

Some steps are done in such a fast sequence that you do not realise that you’ve gone through them. The decision of buying a pair of shoes for a woman has incredible and irrational speed ;).

When you buy an apartment you will consciously go through the steps because the stakes and the impact are much higher.

Now, if you take a step back and look at the shoe example, in fact it looks like a mini-project: scope, budget, timelines, dependencies, stakeholder management, risk assessment… You can find all the above mentioned steps as parts of a Project and you as a Project manager. So YES, we are all Project Managers on different scales, we all wear the ties, the nice shirts and winning smiles on our faces!

Walk further with me: If I just proved that we are all Project Managers can we agree that maybe it would be a good approach to consider each new working challenge you get as a project?

The example I encountered a lot of times in my job is this: you get a team leading assignment on an existing project, so you pick up your shiny shoes, get on the dance floor and start dancing. Soon enough you cannot stop dancing and you realise the music is not quite what you like, but if you stop dancing you will fall on the floor, so you keep dancing.

So I ask every Team Leader that I get to discuss with and that has a new assignment: what is YOUR plan? How do you want to dance this song? Had you listen to the music for long enough to see if it is your beat? Have you observed the dancers to see if they are dancing of joy? Have you seen the nails in the floor that might make you fall? Have you looked at the dance teacher on the side that might help you? Do you want to teach the others to dance or you just want to change the music?

But enough with the metaphors, the bottom line is this: every new assignment is a new project into each you are your own Project Manager, so better start with making an analysis: gathering the facts, assumptions, risks, stakeholders and success criteria. Then with these move into design and make a plan; without a plan you will end up dancing and you might be lucky if you like the music. And only after these pick up your shoes and start dancing! This approach also helps into breaking down the complexity of the task and making it more manageable. Sometimes it is scary when you look at a dance floor full of people and you must get in the middle of them and dance, the complexity might seem too big and you will be overwhelmed. Or if you do not look good enough, the complexity might seem to small and you will be shallow in your approach. Putting it down on paper and writing its elements also helps your mind digest it; not to mention talking and brainstorming about it.

So, if you are about the approach a new challenge, no matter the type, I would advise you take a few minutes and think about it like a Project!

Come and have a chat if you have no idea how you could do that and I promise I’ll do my best to help. ( I am a great Project Manager when buying shoes 😉 )

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