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Vanilla, Please

Vanilla_ice_cream_coneI'm currently in New Orleans speaking at the local PMI chapter event:  Project Management All Jazzed Up. It's been a wonderful visit, and I've enjoyed sharing with fellow practitioners how to become more creative and how to build "office politics proofing" into their project plans.

One workshop I attended yesterday was entitled "Fight for the cause" by Lisa DiTullio. Wow! She was an amazing speaker who exuded credibility, having pulled off an incredible multi-million dollar project recovery for a major health-care insurance institution in Boston.

What impressed me about her presentation was not a lot of flash or theory, however. Lisa and I are actually kindred spirits:  we like simplicity. She told a story of being a young girl in south suburban Boston and going with her large Italian family for ice cream every Sunday afternoon. Given all of the flavors to choose from, she always selected vanilla.

Why? Well, the flavor of vanilla is basic. It maintains its integrity. It's simple, without pretense. And it's very easy to accessorize. You can add just about any ice cream condiment to vanilla ice cream and it improves both. Having watched my daughter request sour gummi worms with her bubble gum ice cream, I know there are combinations which no rationally thinking person should attempt.

How vanilla are your project management processes? Are you easily wowed by the chocolaty richness of Lean Manufacturing? What about the fruitiness of Six Sigma? The big problem with these is that they leave little room for flexibility. Is there a nutty consultant who has sold you their "flavor of the month"? The templates for these methodologies work well if you stay strictly within their confines. Lisa and I talked for a long time yesterday after our respective workshops were finished, and we realized that while we're both pro-process, we're anti-methodology. We like to keep things simple in our project processes and then accessorize to fit the situation. We may pull in a tool from Lean or Six Sigma, or we may just make up a new "flavor" depending on the need. But by going vanilla, we keep our flexibility intact.

Are you afraid of project management because of the complexity of some of the methodologies out there? Are you overwhelmed by the sheer volume? I have a book on my shelf at home of project templates - it's over two inches THICK. I rarely reference it. It's easy to become spooked by project management. Hence, I choose to manage my projects with a foundation of only four documents:

Then you can accessorize this "vanilla" project management with additional tools and templates... AS THEY ARE NEEDED.  How can you make your project management more vanilla to maximize both flavor and flexibility?

Carpe Factum!

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