Posted on 28/09/2010 · Posted in Projects

I’ve just come across a great article in ‘project’ the monthly magazine of the APM.  It is titled ‘Take it easy’ by Peter Taylor and appears in the May 2010 edition (no, I’m not good at keeping up to date with periodicals!), but can also be read directly from Peter’s website, The Lazy Project Manager.

Basically the article advocates the principle of ‘productive laziness’.  This doesn’t mean that we should all do absolutely nothing. I am not saying we should all sit around drinking coffee, reading a good book and engaging in idle gossip whilst watching the project hours go by and the non-delivered project milestones disappear over the horizon.

What he says is we should all adopt a more focused approach to project management and to exercise our efforts where it really matters, rather than rushing around like busy, busy bees involving ourselves in unimportant, non-critical activities that others can better address, or indeed that do not need addressing at all in some cases.

I particularly like his description of smart lazy people and how they can have a real edge over others in society and are often suited to leadership roles in organisations.  One of the most famous examples involves Helmuth Karl Bernhard Graf von Moltke, chief of staff of the Prussian Army, who divided his officer corps into these four distinct types:

Type ‘A’ officers, who were mentally dull and physically lazy, were given simple, repetitive, and unchallenging tasks to perform. They had reached their career peak in the army. That said, if you left them alone then they might just come up with a good idea one day, if not then they won’t cause you any problems either.

Type ‘B’ officers who were mentally bright and physically energetic were considered to be obsessed with micromanagement and would, as a result, be poor leaders. Promotion was possible over a period of time but not to the status of commanding officer of the German General Staff. These officers were best at making sure orders were carried out and thoughtfully addressing all the detail.

Type ‘C’ officers who were mentally dull but physically energetic were considered to be somewhat dangerous. To Moltke, they were officers who would require constant supervision, which was an unacceptable overhead and distraction, and because they would potentially create problems faster than could be managed, these officers were considered too much trouble and were dismissed. No career there then!

Which brings us to type ‘D’ officers; these were the mentally bright and yet physically lazy officers who Moltke felt could and should take the highest levels of command. This type of officer was both smart enough to see what needed to be done but was also motivated by inherent laziness to find the easiest, simplest way to achieve what was required. Put in a more positive way they would know how to be successful through the most efficient deployment of effort.

The Lazy Project Manager is all about applying these principles in the delivery and management of projects.  What you need to do is hone your lazy skills. Do this and not only will your projects be more successful, you will also be seen as successful and a safe pair of hands for future leadership roles.

I think I have done a pretty good job at mastering the art of laziness in my project management style so if you need a hand developing techniques to help you then post a comment or reply privately using the contact details on my Solitaire Consulting website.

‘Whenever there is a hard job to be done I assign it to a lazy man; he is sure to find an easy way of doing it.’ – Walter Chrysler