You Know You’re a Fundamentalist when…

Fundamentalism: strict adherence to any set of basic ideas or principles: the fundamentalism of the extreme conservatives.

While I am very much into best practices, principles and PMBOKisms, I would not have called myself a fundamentalist until quite recently.  I consider myself a moderate who:

  • Uses the right tool when it’s within reason
  • Doesn’t create make work for people who are already overworked
  • Understands the need for balance
  • Can tweak a PMBOK best practice or two if it’s an unnecessary hurdle

But in a conversation with another PM a while ago, I realized that the only reason we were irritated with another person was because:

  • They didn’t just not follow best practices
  • They took a left turn at every best practice to do something different

Difference is good. I love change (sometimes) and I love creativity. But at the end of the day, the change has to work. Or add some value. Not just be different.

Self-righteous PMBOK Geek

It’s at that moment that I realized that sadly, I was in fact, a fundamentalist.

  • I felt self-righteous about my use of “The Best Practices” (because I had seen them work, darn it)
  • I had a personal attachment to them (they’d kept me out of trouble before)
  • “The Best Practices” have been validated by others in the profession

This left me with two problems:

  1. How do I manage my attitude toward the other project manager
  2. How do I work so that I add value to the process and ideally avoid problems caused by not using Best Practices?

Managing my Attitude

For me, this is the hardest part. It’s hard enough to get past my own issues, let alone the stories people tell me about others. It’s a curious fact about human beings: the way we view someone can prevent us from hearing their good ideas and considering the risks they identify. In short, our grudge against them prevents us from taking advantage of the goodness they bring to the table.

One idea I’ve found that helped me is the process of “Killing your Enemy”.  As explained in a previous post, you essentially take time to:

  • Name all the characteristics you like or admire about them.
  • Think on the similarities you have with the enemy.
  • Think on the ways the enemy is liked by others

I’m not saying it always works %), but it certainly can get you through the rougher patches.

Adding Value

As for the second problem: how do you work so that you add value to the process and avoid problems caused by not using Best Practices?

Persistence and Sneakiness.

When you have the opportunity to suggest an approach to a deliverable or something you need, suggest a format. Recommend a best practice.  If they’re looking for a template, give them one in the format that would make your life easier. And Keep. The. Faith.

It can be tempting to throw up your hands, shriek “We’re doomed!” and watch as the project rushes on its way to the train wreck that you know is coming. But for the sake of your morale, the team’s morale and being able to salvage something at the end of the project, you have got to Stay Positive, Keep The Faith and Be Sneaky in implementing a best practice here and there.

It’s the only way that we fundamentalists can stay engaged and happy. Have an objection or anything to add?  Leave a comment, send me a tweet, my id is jgodfrey.


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