The perils of copy-paste in projects

“Just copy-paste from other projects’ documents” was a response I heard quite often, at the start of my journey in the project management world. It was usually coming in response to a concern from a project team which lacked data or status information. I still hear the same kind of response sometimes. With much regret, because such a response goes against the tailor-made approach and contextual project management. Evidence shows that it is a no-no in development management.

Every organisation has project management methodologies. There are formalities, templates, procedures to follow and rightly so. There is also the reality on the ground and the context the project will be implemented in. Making these two tensions meet and lead to a positive outcome might require finding an answer equivalent to “Give to God what’s God’s and give to Caesar what’s Caesar’s”.

If the project team was to follow the copy-paste advice, the stakeholders’ analysis and needs assessment would not matter. The stakeholders voice will be silenced. As a result, there will be no (or very limited) partners’ commitment and ownership of the project and its results. Will this bring the change the tax-payers gave money for? Highly unlikely. Will this be professionally fulfilling for the project team? I know the answer. You may want to find it yourself.

I truly believe any project is unique and requires a unique approach in both design and implementation. The context will demand it. So will the project team’s professionalism, accountability and integrity. Yes, it will take time and resources. With good planning, commitment and couple of tips it can be done.

Do’s in conceptualising:

  • Determine the project’s boundaries
  • Put together a classic literature study list (it is also nice to go back to the student-mode)
  • Place all materials on a shared drive for the team to have access to 24 hours a day (particularly helpful for remote teams)
  • Put together a stakeholders registry and decide on interviews modalities
  • Apply participatory methods when talking to people: they will feel empowered and gladly share their knowledge and aspirations
  • Stay aware of biases and assumptions, your own and others’
  • Bring in the data
  • Decide how the differences between the team members’ assessments will be dealt with in full transparency and with integrity

Do not:

  • Search for the truth: it is neither practical nor realistic. Accept a degree of subjective
  • Discard what does not support your idea. It will boomerang. Try not to get it wrong
  • Stick to the story just because of the evidence you collected at some point in time. Stay prepared to change your story if new evidence appears.

***

Need more arguments against copy-paste, see the story of the “expert” – found to have “mastered” the “art” of cut-and-paste in respect of the same evidence for several different cases https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-48444605

 

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