Random Acts of IT Project Management

Project Management for Information Technology

Should It Be Hard?

Posted by iammarchhare on 29 June 2009

From the “Don’t Make It Hard” files: The right way and the wrong way to make things hard.

We should clarify the phrase “don’t make it hard”.  Some things are meant to be hard.  It is a tool.  It is used  to better our own (personal or corporate) positions.  For example, you want it to be hard for your competitor.  You want to create what Seth Godin calls “The Dip” for those who would otherwise take your market share.  You want it to be hard enough for candidates who apply for a job that the bottom feeders are weeded out.

May I use an analogy?  Cement is a good all purpose agent to build structures.  Cement, or concrete if you prefer, makes excellent sidewalks and driveways under the proper conditions (I’ll spare the long story about my own driveway).  However, it can also make a horrendous mess if poured incorrectly.  It also isn’t good for using a chisel on in order to chisel out a statue, similar to marble.

Both cement and marble are hard.  However, they have different purposes.

There is a small company looking for staff, but they have had a vacant position for some time now.  That may be hard to believe in this economy.  It isn’t because of cost necessarily.  They are just looking for a good quality fit.

Are they being too picky?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  Time will tell.  Most likely, they will find that quality person and fill the spot.

Barriers to entrance is one way that making it hard can be good.  You want the best for your investment, after all.

Of course, that type of barrier depends upon knowing what you want.  One way you can make things hard is to have an “Ambiguous Scope”.  A common cause of an ambiguous scope is the client doesn’t know what they want.

Contrast the example of the small company above with another company looking for a contractor to fill a need for a short-term task.  Initially, it seems they know what they want.  The funny part is that it should be a rather straight-forward little project.  Emotions and politics have clouded their judgment.  They will probably pay too much for too little because what they are asking for doesn’t match their real concerns.  As you dig into it, you begin to realize that the contract may not be in your best interest to pursue.  Red flags are being thrown, flares are going off, and your gut tells you it’s not a good idea.

In other words, you begin to realize that they are making it hard – on themselves.  Without going into specifics, they cannot see the forest for the trees, so they are lost in the forest even though there is a pathway in sight.

There is a time to make it hard – for your competitor, for prospective long-term relationships (yes, there are hopefully barriers to entry for marriage as well as employment) and even for criminals.  However, when you make it hard for yourself, those in a long-term relationship with you (which presumably includes employers) or customers, then you are adding unneeded stress to everyone around you and potentially harming those relationships.

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