17 November 2009


When I talk with people about using the FIST (Fast, Inexpensive, Simple, Tiny) approach to project leadership, we inevitably arrive at a point where the importance of talent comes up. It's not uncommon for people to experience an epiphany, where they say "Ah ha! The FIST approach means you need to have good people working on the team."

To which I can only respond "Yup." (At this point, the process-oriented types and the misanthropes generally write the FIST concept off as unachievable).

From here, the conversation often heads in the direction of objections like "But talent is rare!" and "Good people are hard to find!"

To which I once again reply, "Yup."

Yes, FIST requires a small team of talented people. Yes, talent is rare, but with FIST, you only need a small number of excellent people. So that's something.

But there's more. The other cool thing is that across a large organization or a large portfolio, FIST actually increases the pool of talent. How does it do this incredible feat, you might ask? Well, let me tell you.

FIST is an iterative approach, best used as part of a portfolio. It's about large numbers of small projects. This means you're creating more opportunities for more people to get relevant experience and to expand their practical, professional education. More opportunities to lead. More opportunities to learn. And, by keeping schedules short, more opportunities to see the end of the story (which is a key element of learning from experience). All of this combines to make your people more talented. And that's pretty cool.

In contrast, if you've only got one or two big projects, you're providing fewer opportunities for your people. Fewer opportunities = less learning = less development = less talent.

Sure, FIST requires talent. But it also helps produce it. I think that's pretty cool.

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