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Unconstrained Thinking
-- Joy to the Work

In the world of project management, there is a cliché regarding the "triple constraint" of quality, cost, and schedule and the difficulty of getting all three in a particular effort. While I question the assumption of unavoidable conflict between them, I do believe, however, that the importance of these three components is not limited to the world of projects.

Quality satisfies customers. Cost control satisfies owners, investors, and bankers. And speed and reliability of promises keeps us ahead of the competition. The problem is that some managers seem to think that achieving these three is enough. They are necessary, but not sufficient...especially when they are achieved at the expense of a burned out workforce, which is all too common in these lean (and mean) times.

At a recent conference, an inspiring presentation by Adesh Jain, one of the leading proponents of project management in India, provided me with insight into one of the missing pieces. To the traditional tripartite objective, Jain suggests that we add "Joy."

Joy is an unusual word in a business context, but maybe it can (it definitely should) be more common. If we define joy in terms of a sense of real accomplishment upon completion, plus learning and growth along the way, plus the flow experience of focused attention on the task at hand, then it can become a manageable objective. Maybe not easily measurable, but there are things that a manager can do to influence the joy dividend for her people.

Make sure that the things we take on matter; that they are truly related to the goals and vision of the organization. Don't overburden your stars; let your second-stringers get a chance to grow. And set up a work environment that allows people to maintain flow and focus, recognizing that over-assignment and multitasking not only delay and diffuse results, but also burn out the people who bounce back and forth between competing tasks.

Think about it . . . and don’t forget to add a little joy to your work.

©2002, Frank Patrick

Preserving health by too severe a rule is a worrisome malady. - La Rochefoucauld

This is one of a series of columns on improvement, TOC, constraint management, change management, systems thinking, uncommon sense, and whatever else comes into my mind. Suggestions for topics are welcome. - FP, 908-874-8664 or via the contact page of this site.

If you are interested in using these 1/2-page columns for your APICS, ASQ, PMI, or IIE newsletter, let me know through the same channels, and I'll send you the more easily usable MS Word versions.

-- Frank Patrick

Related links:

Unconstrained Thinking Index

Top 10 Sources of Project Failure -- A list you probably won't see on Letterman.

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