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Michelle LaBrosse

Quality Insider

The Hidden Costs and Dangers of the Shortcut

When the short cut ends up being the longest way out.

Published: Monday, February 8, 2010 - 05:00

We live in a world where we are often pressured to take shortcuts to save time and cut costs as much as possible. However, the wrong shortcut could end up costing a lot more. Here’s an anecdote to think about:

Let’s say you are running a project and the goal is to upgrade a road to a remote property. You solicit bids from several contractors and ask them to do it for the least cost possible. You also stipulate you don't want to get any permits.

None of the contractors are willing to work under those conditions, so you get your own earth-moving equipment and a friend with some experience to help you upgrade your road.

In the process, you fill in a spillway to a dam for a reservoir. You think this is no big deal, because the fine you pay for that is far less than what it would've cost to hire a contractor to do the job properly.

Three years later, in a heavy rainstorm, the dam breaks because the spillway has been compromised. Seven homes are washed away in the ensuing flood and 10 people die. What was intended to be a shortcut to save money ends up taking lives.

Is it so farfetched? How often is safety compromised every day because people are looking for the quick way out? As project managers, we have a responsibility to be the voice of reason that understands the hidden costs and dangers of the shortcut.

Let’s look at how a project management professional could have prevented this:

Standards. When an organization hires a project management professional (PMP), it shows that the organization is willing to learn the global standards that are universally accepted as a standard set of processes, tools, and techniques for doing projects—all projects. This means it is willing to learn the rules of the game.

Rules are generally created for very good reasons and successful PMPs know how to follow them. Dedicated PMPs show their leadership, because they have the ability to go the distance, learn the rules of the game, and only adapt the rules when it is for the overall good of a project.

Stakeholder. To become a PMP, a person has to learn about a variety of topics that affect the outcome of projects. Many factors that influence the outcome of a project have absolutely nothing to do with the goal of the project, as in the story where the goal was to upgrade the road. When in pursuit of a PMP certificate, project managers learn to weigh all the stakeholders' interests on their projects and to ask the tough questions.

Communication. A PMP learns how important it is to communicate with everyone involved in a project and look beyond the typical aspects of satisfying the project sponsor to include all the factors. In the anecdote, the property owner was, in fact, the project manager and is now being charged with manslaughter because of the unintended consequences of his project.

Could someone without a PMP have done just as good a job managing the road project? From my experience, having someone with a PMP leading your projects reduces the risks of managing the project because they have a demonstrated ability to play by the rules. In a world enamored with people “just doing it” and “thinking outside the box,” we need folks who still know how to learn the rules, understand why they exist, and create a safe environment for all. 


About The Author

Michelle LaBrosse’s picture

Michelle LaBrosse

Michelle LaBrosse is an entrepreneurial powerhouse with a penchant for making success easy, fun, and fast. She is the founder of Cheetah Learning, the author of the Cheetah Success Series, and a prolific blogger whose mission is to bring project management to the masses. She is a graduate of the Harvard Business School’s Owner/President Management program and holds engineering degrees from Syracuse University and the University of Dayton. Cheetah Learning is a virtual company with 100 employees, contractors, and licensees worldwide. More than 50,000 people have used Cheetah Learning’s project management and accelerated learning techniques.