Thursday, December 13, 2007

Keep Your Projects Simple Stupid

I’m sure that you have all heard of the KISS method or Keep It Simple Stupid. There are several variations of the expression that all boil down to keeping things uncomplicated, minimalist, or to their basic elements. If you truly want to complete more of your projects then you should apply this to your projects and make it one of your guiding principles.

David Allen as part of GTD (page 37) has defined projects as any desired result requiring more than one action step. While this is a far cry from the more traditional project management view of projects, both forms of projects can benefit from its use and application.

Traditional project management would spend a lot of time defining the projects but it is well known within the project management community that most projects (especially I.T. ones) fail. Using the GTD definition of projects I assume that you’ll find a lot of failed projects and procrastination stopping projects from progressing. David Allen has pointed out that projects are often not completed because they have tasks requiring more than one action step and they don’t define the next step needed for completion so it stays in their "inbox" or in their “todo” list. Those projects that do progress are often not defined properly (if at all) and/or they fall victim to scope creep. Scope can be defined as what you want to accomplish within your project as its goal. Scope creep is a traditional project management term describing project scopes that are expanded beyond their original intent or design. The kitchen sink syndrome and feature creep are sometimes used for scope creep, but they all refer to projects that can easily spiral out of control and fail.

How can you apply KISS to your projects?

  • Keep your project goal or scope simple. The more complicated your project goal the more things that can hamper you from accomplishing it. Also the more complicated your goal the more likely you are to procrastinate or delay starting it.
  • Define your project steps and keep them simple. You will need to determine the steps needed to be accomplish your project goal. Be sure to keep the number of steps and complexity at a minimum. By eliminating unnecessary steps and complexity, you can finish your projects sooner with less cost and effort. By knowing your steps (keeping them simple as well), you can make use of the “What is my next action?” in progressing your projects.
  • Resist the urge to add things along the way. Everyone has been there, a simple project morphs into something totally different and maybe the original project gets put on the back-burner to be completed later or completely abandoned. While you might have missed a step or two when you defined your project steps, you should avoid adding more steps unless necessary (see the next point). Before adding more steps make sure that they’re absolutely necessary. While you can add items that aren’t necessary, if you do this in all your projects and all areas of your life you can see how it can bog you down and stop you from accomplishing things. Ask yourself if the proposed added step adds enough value, remembering that there is likely to be additional cost and effort by adding step.
  • Remember that separate projects should stay separate projects. It is very tempting to add this or that to your project because you’re already doing it anyway or it wouldn’t be too hard to add this or that. At this point you need to remind yourself that this should be a separate project to be completed later. There is a good chance that your “nice to have” or “wishlist” item is not really a priority for you and your time would be better spent on other things with higher priorities. This might not come natural at first but it is part of focusing on your project and actually completing it.
  • Record “new” project ideas for possible “future” projects. People are often inspired when they’re working on their projects to add items to them or they have totally unrelated project ideas. You want to make sure that you capture these ideas in your “Someday Maybe” category, so that you can possibly do it later.

If you KYPSS (Keep Your Project Simple Stupid) by using the KISS concept, you’ll accomplish more of your projects and you’ll get more things done.

blog comments powered by Disqus