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The Art of Project Management by Scott Berkun

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6.2. Managing ideas demands a steady hand

The most common mistake is to treat the design process as if it were a big light switch—you can just turn it on and off whenever you like. This fantasy, as it goes, runs like this: you show up one day, realize it's getting late and that there are too many ideas and designs (and not enough decisions), and you say to the team, "OK, we're done with ideas. Pick a design and let's start coding! Woo-Hoo!" Even at the off chance that there is a design that is ready for primetime (which there won't be), this kind of unpredictable behavior will disorient and confuse the entire team. Up until that moment, everyone was working on designs that required time to bake. Without a date given to them, they may have thought they had right up until 11:59 p.m. on the night before specs were due to make their big decisions.

Instead, good idea management is decisive but predictable. It should never be a surprise that the nature of the work is changing (unless there is a crisis) or that the focus of energy is shifting because the project is entering a different phase. There should be easy and natural reminders to the team as the scope and emphasis change. Like a dimmer switch for lights—the kind with a knob that gives measured control over changes—there should be a gradual shift of focus. It's the project manager's job to manage that dimmer switch and make sure it's controlled with a steady hand. There may be a moment when someone has to say, "Look. Time is up. ...

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