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Are you swatting flies with a hammer?

joe pusz pmo project management Jul 08, 2021
I'm a big fan of baseball.  I enjoy watching kids, college teams and of course the professionals.  I played up into college and had dreams of one day becoming a professional in MLB but that didn't happen so now I'm PMO Joe!  

As PMO Joe I find myself relating non-PM events and activities to our Project Management and PMO Leadership function.  While watching some baseball games recently I noticed that players all have their own bats.  I've always known this, it's certainly not a new revelation to me but it hit me at that moment.  Wow, look at all these unique bats.  The bats are different colors, lengths, weights and have different types of handles and barrels.  At the MLB level all the bats are wooden but kids playing little league baseball use aluminum bats.  Some players use tape on their handles and others use nothing to improve their grip.  They are all bats but they are all different.

My mind then started drifting to a comparison within our PM space.  What tools do we all use but perhaps they are a bit different for each of us.  Easy, right?  All our deliverables such as a Status Report, Communication Plan, Issues Log or any of the other deliverables we utilize for delivering our projects.  We might use a spreadsheet, slides, or advanced software to help with these but without them we wouldn't be able to do our job.  Imagine a baseball player ready to hit and realizing he doesn't have a bat in his hands!

Or imagine a professional using a bat from a little leaguer!  It is a bat, but it's not the right size nor the proper material.  Even though he has a bat in hand he won't be successful because he isn't using the right bat for the job.  Have you ever felt that way running a project?  Do you ever feel like your equipment isn't helping you achieve the results you want?

Too often we Project Managers settle to use what the PMO gives us.  We use the tools which are available rather than finding the proper tool for the project at hand.  As an example, wooden bats used by the professionals often break and the player has to use a new bat.  They don't take their next at bat using the broken one, they find a new bat.  In fact, it is common for players to try new bats during batting practice prior to a game.  That way if one breaks one will be ready to step in.

Are you working on any new tools while you are practicing to see how they will perform when the time comes to put them in play on your projects?  Perhaps a new deliverable is a suggestion from a colleague or something you picked up at a conference.  As PMO Leaders we should be working to ensure we have coverage for what is coming and not just what is in front of us at the moment.  Is your PMO team trying out new tools so you're ready when they are needed?

Imagine trying to swat flies with a hammer!  It would be funny but could also be very destructive.  There would be plenty of smashed tables and windows from that hammer and certainly all the flies would escape your efforts.  We see far too often PMs and PMO Leaders using "hammers to swat flies" and taking swings with broken bats.  

Be sure you are taking the time to review your tools.  Are they still effective?  Do you have new tools being tested?  Do you have different tools for different projects?  Are your team members practicing with the tools before "game time"?

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