We’re getting into full swing here at LiquidPlanner. The application is pretty solid, there are a few features we’d like to add (aren’t there always), but for the most part it is ready for prime time. So we’ve been beating the bushes to get some of our better beta customers to sign up to actually give us money. This is a big thing. While people are willing to put up with quite a bit when using free software, if they’re willing to pay for it that really says something.

SM Fire PullBut there’s one thing that’s been bothering me during my conversations with folks about what they want from a project management tool. They are looking for a new tool because their projects are out of control, late, over budget, under scope, or… well… let’s just say that if there is a way that things can go wrong someone somewhere is experiencing that particular flavor of train wreck. Almost uniformly what they want is a tool that they buy, turn on, and magically their problems are solved. They want a silver bullet.

There are no silver bullets.

No tool or piece of software can make you more efficient or better at what you do unless you change the way you do it.

This isn’t some great revelation. I’m certainly not the first to say it. It continues to amaze me how many people say, “Our projects are not running as well as we’d like so we want a tool to help and we don’t want to change anything.”

If you don’t change your behavior then things will stay the same. A good tool helps you (and your organization) understand what needs to change. A good tool shows you the effects of any changes you undertake. But notice, the tool doesn’t do the changing, you do.

When I was a kid I was into ski racing. No really, this is relevant so just stay with me.

Anyway, I knew I had a problem with starting my turns too late. I knew it because my coach said so and my times were slow and not improving. Then one day a better tool showed up. The coach brought a camcorder up to the hill.

He would record us coming down through the gates. At the end of our run we would watch the recording right there. And then we’d go up and do it again.

I swear to you that I was faster within the first two runs. I could see what I was doing and get nearly instant feedback. I made more progress in that two hour session than I had made in a month of the coach telling me what was wrong.

But the camcorder did not make me faster.

It wasn’t the tool, but rather the change in my behavior that made me faster. If I had said, “Just give me a tool that will make me faster but I don’t want to change the way I ski at all” the coach (and I suspect all of you) would have laughed at me.

Project management software is like that though. People are always looking to the software to adapt to their pathological, dysfunctional ways of executing projects. They don’t want to change the way they do projects. If you don’t change the way you’re doing things you will continue to have the same level of success (or lack thereof).

There’s a great list of 50 reasons not to change that sums up just about every one that I’ve ever heard. Thanks to Raven for pointing this out to me.

Behavioral Change & Silver Bullets was last modified: April 19th, 2008 by Bruce Henry