Non-Utilitarian Metrics

My new post at AITS was published this morning. After my usual wise-ass opening, I provide three examples of poor project management metrics and how they were presented, and conclude with a few summary principles for collecting actionable data and presenting it clearly. I’m pretty sure I can squeeze out a few more articles like this, but it would be great to have some input from other project managers and portfolio managers. Leave a comment here or at AITS, and share a story I can repeat. With attribution, of course.

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More PM Lessons Learned From Wile E. Coyote

Wile E. Coyote & Road RunnerA few years ago, Josh Nankivel published a short, tongue-in-cheek essay about the project management lessons we could learn from Wile E. Coyote. I think most of us are familiar with the pathetic cartoon character, his fanatical pursuit of the Road Runner, and his perpetually cataclysmic failures. Josh posted several maxims that should resonate with anyone who spent a few Saturday mornings in front of the television. I thought it was an interesting place to get some inspiration, and the idea stayed with me.

“A fanatic is one who redoubles his effort when he has forgotten his aim.” – George Santayana

So, with a tip of the hat to Josh, the late Chuck Jones, and Carnivorous Vulgaris himself, here are a few observations made across far too many of my Saturday mornings:

  • Innovation requires you to do things you don’t really understand.
  • There are usually excellent reasons why some things have never been done before.
  • Failure does not respect confidence.
  • When operating near a cliff, avoid stretch goals.
  • It’s safer to fly than it is to land. Corollary: Navigation matters, a lot.
  • Business cards are not particularly objective.
  • Acme Tornado KitA good vendor should be treasured, and a bad vendor should be discarded.
  • Persistence is only admirable briefly. Before you can learn from your failures, you have to acknowledge them.
  • Complicated solutions have more ways to fail.
  • If you won’t read the instructions, at least read the warnings.
  • Don’t use a prototype in production.
  • The faster your target moves, the less chance you have of hitting it.
  • You don’t have to build a restaurant in order to have lunch.
  • There’s no safe way to operate an anvil near a cliff. Corollary: Everything falls faster than an anvil.
  • You don’t actually start to fall until you realize you’ve walked off the cliff.
  • Before you inspect the dynamite, remember to disconnect the wires.

And from the Road Runner:

  • Vegetarians don’t have to chase their food.
  • Follow your nature.
  • Stay on the road.
  • A short, simple vocabulary communicates more effectively (beep, beep!).

All images copyright Warner Brothers Entertainment, Inc.