Why Do Something Rather Than Nothing?

We are often called on to justify the particular option or path we are taking. We often have good articulate reasons for choosing this option over that one, for why we are taking this particular path, but we are rarely asked to justify why we are doing anything at all. But surely, this is the more important question? Why are we doing something at all? Why are we doing something rather than nothing? We often ask how we are going to deliver a project , but sometimes we should ask whether we should be doing the project at all. For all of my projects I ask the question: why are we doing something rather than nothing? For all of my current projects I can give what I believe is a compelling reason – and one that I think others will find compelling. And, if I can’t, I will suggest we should call the project off. Running a project is almost certainly more expensive than not running one, and that effort could more usefully be spent on something more worthwhile. This is not just a hypothetical situation. I have had a project shut down because there was no satisfactory answer to this question, saving my organisation hundreds of thousands of dollars.

You can be sure that at some point in your career someone else will ask you the very same question about one of your projects. If you haven’t thought about this question you may not be able to answer them when they do. If you are very unlucky they may call the project off because their question cannot be answered, even if there really is a very good reason to do it. This very thing once happened to a colleague of mine, and a useful project was jeopardised because he was unable to answer this question when put on the spot. You don’t want that to happen to you!

Thinking about my day to day job, I believe I (and you) should ask this question about every significant activity I undertake. If I can’t give a compelling answer, I believe it is my responsibility to argue that the task shouldn’t be done. If I don’t think my task is worthwhile, it stands to reason that most other people won’t either. And with every project I’ve ever been on, there have always been more tasks than there was time to carry them out.

So, my advice is: ask yourself: why do something rather than nothing? You may be surprised by the answer.

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