For Want of a Nail

Mike Donoghue is a member of a multinational information technology corporation where he collaborates on the communications guidelines and customer relationship strategies affecting the interactions with internal and external clients. He has analyzed, defined, designed and overseen processes for various engagements including product usability and customer satisfaction, best practice enterprise standardization, relationship/branding structures, and distribution effectiveness and direction. He has also established corporate library solutions to provide frameworks for sales, marketing, training, and support divisions.

For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the message was lost.
For want of a message the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

-- 14th/15th century proverb

How many outcomes are affected by only the supposedly smallest of things? Would the RMSTitanic’s tragedy have been averted if a pair of binoculars designated for the crow’s nest lookout had not been missing? Would World War I have been avoided if Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s driver had been given the correct instructions on what road to take and thereby thwarted the archduke’s assassination?

While many may consider these “what if” circumstances to be examples of the Butterfly Effect in chaos theory, it is the responsibility of project managers to keep teams and tasks focused to such a degree so that slipups have backup plans, counterstrategies, redundancy arrangements and contingencies of all sorts.

Many good-intentioned self-help gurus try to tell us to “not sweat the small stuff.” However, it is often true in the course of our projects that the concept of “small stuff” does not exist and that every effort, every resource and every benchmark is essential to the success of the …

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"It is impossible to travel faster than the speed of light, and certainly not desirable, as one's hat keeps blowing off."

- Woody Allen