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Venus de Milestone: the car

Here’s an interesting story that proves a point about the way projects are managed these days.  What would happen if a car operated the way most companies managed their projects?

There are some fundamental concepts regarding variation in projects that more people should be aware of.


Getting Things Done

It’s a phrase that makes people feel good, one that generates confidence, accomplishment.  It’s something we all want to do.  However we define ‘things’, we want them finished, complete, closed, accomplished.

David Allen was a management consultant that began to see the DNA of how things got done and then developed a method, a step by step process, even an entire philosophy around personal productivity and the business of ‘getting things done’.  His books continue to grow in popularity and he is now (and has been for a while) one of the most recognized names in the personal productivity arena.  He basically owns the phrase due to his first book, “Getting Things Done“, and his methodology is now referred as GTD. 

His second book focused more on the philosophy and principles behind the method and is a collection of short essays called “Ready for Anything“.  I actually read that one first and thoroughly enjoyed it.  I’ve also come back to that one quite a few times for re-reading and study, to help me get back on track.

His latest book, just recently released, “Making it All Work” is supposed to provide new perspectives and help you reach new levels of productivity.  I haven’t read it yet, but probably will at some point.

His core premise is that one’s ability to be productive is directly proportional to one’s ability to relax.  He uses the “mind like water” analogy where water responds with total appropriateness to a pebble being thrown in it.  It doesn’t overreact or underreact, it simply interacts with whatever comes to it and returns to its natural state. 

He defines 4 main areas of productive behavior:

  1. Capturing and corralling all our internal and external “open loops” to regain clarity and energy.
  2. Consciously managing our focus within the multiple levels of outcomes and responsibilities to which we are committed.
  3. Creating trusted structures and consistent usage of them to trigger the appropriate focus and reminders as necessary.
  4. Grounding it all with flexible, forward motion at the physical-action level.


People don’t need more discipline as such – they need a more discipined approach.  It’s not about working harder or getting your priorites straight, it’s about defining your work better at multiple levels of detail and staying focused on all of them simultaneously.

I highly recommend investgating David Allen’s work.  I have not mastered his method perfectly yet, but his concepts help me to understand all the things I have to do in a different way, and therefore helps reduce my stress.

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Judging a Solution

There are 6 criteria for judging whether an improvement solution will be effective. (As explained by Eli Goldratt in his Webcast Series)

A solution must:

  1. Produce results and excellent benefits
  2. Be a win/win/win for all who’s collaboration is needed
  3. Have small risk relative to the benefits
  4. Be simpler than what we do now
  5. Have a sequence that enables people to get on board because the first actions deliver significant, immediate results
  6. Be one that does not self-destruct, or is blind to the dangers of success.


Of course, Goldratt has outlined a method with strategies and tactics that meets all criteria in the realm of Project Management.  It is amazingly simple, but would require significant behavior changes and difficult decisions by top leaders in a large company.  Still, many companies are being successful at applying his method.