Published here February 2005.


Musings Index

Micro Managing and Two Cans of Beer
(An Object Lesson In Project Management)

A philosophy professor stood before his class with some articles before him. When the class began, wordlessly, he picked up a very large empty glass jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls.

He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous "yes."

The professor then produced two cans of beer from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.

Then said the professor, as the laughter subsided:

"Now, I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things: your family, your children, your health, your friends, your favorite passions things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full."

"The pebbles are the other things that matter: like your job, your house, your car. The sand is everything else the small stuff."

"If you put the sand into the jar first, there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you."

"Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your partner out to dinner. Play another round of golf. There will always be time to clean the house, and fix the disposal. Take care of the golf balls first. Those are the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand."

There was a pause, and then a truculent student voice from the back muttered "Warrabout the beer?" The professor smiled.

"I'm glad you asked! It just goes to show that no matter how full your life may seem, there's always room for a couple of beers!"

While you are busy chuckling over this anecdote, just remember that this is also good advice for the project manager:

Stop micro managing and get the big things in the project done first. If you don't, you'll never get everything done within the time available!

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