“I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it was a nail.” Abraham Maslow.
The tools you use everyday at work have an influence on how you see things and how you approach problems. Craftsmen are very particular about their tools. The carpenters, cabinet makers, metal workers and boatbuilders that I’ve had the pleasure of coming in contact with are fanatical about their tools and their regular maintenance. Over the years, they’ve come to know which tools are exactly the right tools for each job they are undertaking. They understand the trade-offs that are made when they choose one tool over another.
“If you want to teach people a new way of thinking, don’t bother trying to teach them. Instead, give them a tool the use of which will lead to new ways of thinking.” R. Buckminster Fuller.
Choosing the wrong tools for a job can have a downside. They can focus your attention on the wrong things. They can force you to work in a manner which doesn’t align with your goals or philosophies. They can limit or stunt the potential of your people and their interactions.
In the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) world in which we now live, and the new dynamics of consumer software applications influencing enterprise purchasing decisions (BYOA?), businesses need to be careful about how these seemingly innocuous decisions (“Oh jeez, it’s only software”) about adopting tools, impacts the operations of the business.
Lots of the decisions being made to adopt free, or inexpensive consumer-first applications are good ones; they provide excellent functionality at a competitive price without the administrative overhead or IT department headaches that one often encounters in business.
The downside is the proliferation of applications which can disrupt your ability to tie together your people with a backbone that keeps people aligned, effectively executing and able to adapt and learn from experience.
Project management software, for example, always garners a high level of interest within organizations. People become quite religious about their devotion to a particular PM tool and want to see it proliferate throughout the organization. Part of this is probably confirmation bias, but part of it is also an interest to share something good with other people.
The big problem is when people start promoting Project Management applications and processes over leadership and management needs. That, and when a significant amount of your people’s time is being spent on selecting a PM tool that has little strategic value.
You can be excellent at managing projects which do nothing to drive results for your organization, yet still manage yourself right out of business by focusing on “doing things right” instead of “doing the right things.”
One only needs to think of the opportunity cost of spending time selecting and implementing a PM application rather than tools for Leadership that are focused on the entire enterprise’s performance. PM tools are important in many cases, but they should not be the tail that wags the dog.
If you are considering PM tools or Leadership tools, don’t hesitate to contact us for free guides to help you make the best vendor and application selections.
Less Noise. More Signal.:
When selecting potential technology tools for your organization, keep the following in mind:
- Prioritize and rank the business or performance outcomes you are looking to address by purchasing and implementing the technology (hint: what are the things you are looking to "maximize" and what things are you trying to "minimize" by implementing technology)
- Identify and rank the challenges any technology is going to face and how each potential choice can mitigate or exacerbate those challenges.
- Account for "Espoused Technology" versus "Technology In Use." Using Analyst reports and feature comparisons doesn't tell you if the technology being considered is actually being used by people. The best technology is the technology that gets used. Talk to real users and find out what they use, like and dislike.
- Plan for a 10:1 expenditure on people and process education versus the technology spend. If you fail to invest the appropriate resources around training and process refinement, no technology selection can succeed.
- Avoid the common Decision Traps: see The Most Critical Technology post...