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Pick-Up Sticks or Process?

For those of you, like me, who grew up without electronic toys, do you remember the game called “Pick-Up Sticks”? For our millennial friends, it’s a game where you release a bundle of thin, 8-inch sticks onto a table. They fall and land randomly. Then each player must remove a stick without disturbing the remaining ones.

Think of this game as a list of tasks in a complex project. It’s a list without any context for how they flow together in a process to achieve a particular end result. Many tools today give you something like dropping a pile of sticks. You have no overall view of how your task can affect others in the pile. Instead, what if the tasks were more like action steps as part of a process?

A task is something that stands on its own and can be very specific to just one project. A process, as defined by Google, is “a series of action steps taken in order to achieve a particular end.” In addition to this definition, I see a process as a set of steps that are generic enough to be used in other, similar projects. For example, if you are implementing Oracle ERP over and over at different clients, then most of what you do is a process.

The winner of the Pick-Up Sticks game will be the player who has learned how to drop the sticks into a predefined, organized set rather than a random jumble that looks different each time. Look for a more process-oriented approach in a project management tool or platform rather than something that provides just a straight list of tasks. Then you can start to accumulate knowledge and build repeatable standards.

Image by Laura