Less is More: Project Management and the "Minimum Effective Dose"

A new approach can be taken to help project managers in the world of IT security projects. After reading a book by Tim Ferris, John realized that a specific concept could be applied to these and other types of projects.

Introducing the "Minimum Effective Dose"

Recently, I read a book called “The 4-Hour Body” by Tim Ferris. It’s typical Ferris material, entertaining, breezy and easy to digest. One thing, however, that caught my eye was the concept of “Minimum Effective Dose” (MED). Simply put, the MED is the smallest amount of input that will produce a desired outcome. In Ferris’s case he was talking about the least amount of exercise required to get in shape, but this same concept could apply equally well to IT projects.

IT Project Management is a Fact of Life (Love it or hate it)

Love it or hate it, IT project management is a fact of life. This is particularly true when it comes to large, complex projects. I’ve been a Project Manager for more years than I care to admit and what I’ve found is that IT pros tend to have a distaste for project management. This is especially true in IT security where a strong, individualistic “hacker" ethos is not only admired but often actively encouraged.

Although I’ve known about this defiance of project management for some time, it wasn’t until recently that I really got an understanding of the bitter taste that comes along with the term ‘Project Management.’

The "Taste of My Own Medicine" Scenario

A project I had been working on, involving multiple vendors, was recently assigned another PM to oversee and coordinate the entire effort. Initially, I was glad for the help. After all, how could having two project managers be a bad thing?

Soon, however, I came to realize there weren’t going to be two project managers... There was only going to be one, and it wasn’t going to be me.

I felt miffed. I was no longer the one calling the shots. I wasn’t a huge fan of being told what I should do, in what order it should be done, and the deadline for completion. It irritated me that I had to modify (however incrementally) my carefully laid-out workflow, to which I had grown very fond of and accustomed to.

Tossing Out Traditional (Overbearing) Project Management

In short, I felt all the familiar project tensions (as I had being a PM), but this time I was experiencing it from the opposite side of the table. An experience I didn’t like very much at all.

To be clear, the other PM was a very competent individual. He was organized, smart and personable, with an efficient, sensible system for managing. Thing was, it wasn’t my system. Although I tended to agree with his methods, I still didn’t like the situation.

The truth is, even when done with a light touch, traditional project management often feels intrusive and overbearing.

So, what is a project manager to do?

Perhaps, similar to Ferris’ theory of the “Minimum Effective Dose,” the answer to this is less project management, not more.

Here at Hurricane Labs, with each project we are constantly working toward a more efficient system. It’s a goal of ours to use the knowledge we gather to shave off unnecessary complexity and redundancy. I like to think this reflects our values and what we strive for at Hurricane Labs - process transparency and extraordinary effectiveness, coupled with a very personalized service.

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