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Parkinson’s Law and Project Management: Quick and Dirty

Parkinson's Law and Project Management: Quick and Dirty

(Photo: koalazymonkey)

“Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”

This is Parkinson’s Law, one of the mental models used by Charles Munger and others. It comes to say: the amount of time you have to finish a task, is the amount of time you will use. So what is so special about it? Well, a consequence of this law is that if you would have less time to complete the task, you would manage to finish it in less time. The stress of the last minute would stimulate your creativity and you would wade through non-essential work, focusing on what really matters to get your task done. Jackpot!! Now we have a tool to speed up our projects:

Set tight deadlines, you will figure out ways to get the tasks done in time.

So we have in place the Quick part, what about the Dirty you must be wondering? For this part I would like to make use of the knowledge accumulated by a software company, yes, a software company, what were you think of?

Enter 37 Signals

What they do is development of web apps that make project management less painful. They have quite a peculiar approach to software development, it is more like a philosophy, and since they are nice guys (all programmers are nice guys, aren’t they?), they shared their knowledge on the amazing books, Getting Real (Paperback) | Getting Real (Kindle) and more recently Rework (Paperback) | Rework (Kindle).

From the tons of ideas they bring on the table, I would select:

  • Don’t aim for perfect, aim for good enough.
  • Simplify your projects (web apps), reduce the number of features.
  • Produce a prototype fast,  get feedback, improve prototype, get feedback, …

You can ask yourself the following question if you want to implement these ideas:

  • Can I remove this task without my project loosing its essence?
  • Can somebody already use this prototype to give me feedback?
Since they are a software company they get bitchy about features or functionalities of their software. Like Steve Jobs said about iTunes
“We don’t want a thousand features. That would be ugly. Innovation is not about saying yes to everything. It’s about saying NO to all but the most crucial features.
Quite zen, isn’t it?

Good enough, dirty enough

Why good enough if I am a perfectionist? If you don’t believe that it can save some time, think that it can save your life. I would like to finish this post with an example of how life can put you on a really tight deadline and how aiming at good enough can save your ass. The people of Disruptive Thinking give us an extreme situation when quick and dirty is vital, building a CO2 filter during the Apollo 13 Mission.

Try it for 2 weeks, A, set tight deadlines for your projects and B, determine which essential things you should accomplish so what you deliver is good enough. Get your tasks done faster and move on the next thing.Interested in becoming a Scientist 2.0? Then visit my blog

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