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The Artificial, Week 258: Stacking Rocks

published at theartificial.com on

We are undertaking small projects both internal and for clients lately. In times like these, the “overhead” of project management takes a greater fraction of our energy than when we have larger engagements.

It is natural for people to consider the skills they have in their titled discipline as valuable in their own right. But anyone who wants to be productive beyond simple tasks needs to be able to manage themselves, or be paired with a manager to hover over their shoulder all day.

I like to call this ability to manage rock stacking skills. They apply not only when you’re asked to “flesh out the error flows for this connected product,” but also when the job is “move this stack of rocks from here to there.”

What should you wonder when a client or manager asks you to move some rocks, before you start moving them? Here are a few examples:

It is easy to go on and on and make this sound like a deep skillset, but really a simple intuition for questioning the job is key. Unfortunately, in my experience this is vanishingly rare among businesspeople, designers, developers, and other people who don’t have project in their title.

Designers are, at least, at a slight advantage; it is natural for them to ask “why are we moving these rocks, anyway?”