Project Spending: Investment and Insanity

For anyone who has worked in retail, you know that customers have a variety of ideas as to what “expensive” means. Terms like “sale,” “deal,” and “cheap” are all a matter of perspective. When I worked in retail, out of all the people who know what they wanted, there were three general ways to make a purchase:

1) spend whatever amount of money for the best product
2) spend a medium amount of money for a decent product
3) spend as little money possible for a minimum quality product

Though I was always an advocate of getting the best, long-lasting product, as long as people understood what level of quality they were buying, I was fine.

I think these types of people everywhere. When it comes to hobbies, talents, work, and relationships, quality depends (in most cases) on the time and effort put into that activity.

I think project managers can be categorized the same way:

1) those that invest large amounts of costs and resources into producing top quality results
2) those that invest medium amounts of costs and resources for medium quality results
3) those that invest the least amount of costs and resources for minimum quality results

I think it is very important to note that these categories aren’t necessarily ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ Each aspect can be positive and negative depending on the situation. Sometimes, a project’s quality is less important than saving time and money, and, sometimes it’s the other way around. Overall, a manager must have the skill of knowing how to prioritize costs and resources.

Another important thing I learned in my retail experience is that there was one other category of people that stood out among the rest: the person who wouldn’t spend a dime unless it was the best product listed at the same price as the cheapest. The latter was hardest to confront for I couldn’t explain that it was impossible to live up to their expectations.

I think project managers, team members, and executives alike are capable of thinking the same way. These individuals might put in as little effort as possible, yet expect that the project will produce top possible quality. Such expectations are a surefire way of destroying a project. In addition, this obliviousness to reality can further damage the team and even the enterprise because the decision maker can refuse to take responsibility for his or her actions. To Albert Einstein, this would be the definition of insanity: “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”