Consider the Chain – It’s not the weakest link…

Dave BarbellaArticle


… but how you support and use the chain.

Recently I attended a PMP workshop, and while going through the usual refresher items, the old ‘chain is as strong as it’s weakest link’ analogy come up. That analogy just doesn’t do it for me anymore. We can do better with that analogy can’t we? Thought about it carefully and found a couple more analogies, and more importantly things we can do about them.

The Weakest Link – Risk Management

Why is it the weakest link, the weakest? Is that link certain to break? It will if we don’t recognize it as a risk item and don’t take the steps to avoid the risks, or have a plan to mitigate if total avoidance of the risk isn’t possible.

For this conversation, we’ll assume that it’s not an under performing or inexperienced resource. We would want to avoid having that link on the chain to begin with (looking at this from the professional agency-level).

The weakest links can be strengthened by honestly identifying risks and considering how to avoid/mitigate them. Leaving any identified risks without a resolution, is asking for trouble during the course of production. At the very least, openly communicating the risks to all appropriate project stakeholders will raise the level of awareness.

The Strongest Link – Can Weaken

Here is where I suspect things are not always considered as much.

Having confidence in your strongest links is a great feeling, it creates a sense of comfort in the success of activities associated. That complacency though, can inadvertently allow too much strain on that link, causing even the strongest of resources to break. A great Interactive Developer (for example) has the ability to accomplish complex tasks in a short amount of time (due to their experience and talent within their skillset). It’s easy to let a few iterations of that performance create a precedence that creates an unrealistic expectation. Now the link is overloaded, and what you thought was your strongest link, will fatigue and break.

“Never saw that coming” is not what you want to hear when your best links can’t hold up due to the load they were made to carry, and break.

So as I heard that good old analogy, I started thinking about how to make the chain stronger. And maintain the chain to keep it strong. All part of effective Project Management, Team Leadership, Operations Management (and plenty of other situations). This expanded analogy isn’t just for projects, but anything that relies on a collection of “X” to support the success of anything.

Check those links my friends. Are you sure some of your best links couldn’t use some attention and support?