Resist the Urge to Oversimplify Your Project Plan

Marc Monday
2 min readFeb 19, 2020

You can’t build a functional spacecraft of out of marshmallows!

Adobe Stock

I recently wrote a short piece using my “Ferrari in a Forest” metaphor for overengineering a project. Your welcome to read it here. https://bit.ly/38MuGgk

But basically the gist of it was, sometimes, we as project managers or strategists overengineer our projects before we test them in the real world. The moral was that if you only have trails in the forest, building a finely engineered Italian sportscar might NOT be the best solution. Perhaps a fine pair of hiking shoes or at most a mountain bike would have made the most sense.

Today, I come at this from a slightly different angle — you can’t build a spacecraft out of marshmallows.

You probably get where this is going already.

If your project really needs to scale (especially if you have earmarked tons of money) you need to avoid what I call the pitfall of Marshmallow Fluff.

I should pause here….

READERS NOTE: Marshmallow Fluff is a delicious treat that is often put on ice cream sundaes; and as the name suggests — is a fluffy, nearly liquified version of a marshmallow.

Marshmallow Fluff Image — looks remarkably like Plain Yogurt here — but I assure you has 100% more sugar and tastes a million times better. Adobe Image.

You have all seen this before. A project plan super light on details, whipped with some goodwill and bonhomie, and delivered at just the right temperature.

The problem is — you wanted to build something to last. Build something to scale. Build something to escape the earth’s atmosphere. Build something that would be able to take the harsh escape velocity and endure the 225 million (minimum) kilometer trek from the earth to Mars.

Finding the balance between a useless Ferrari in a Forest; and a saccharin sweet Spacecraft made of our Marshmallows is what makes project management such an important an integral discipline.

I recently read in Seth Godin’s AltMBA marketing brochure this quote that really stuck with me:

“I’ll know it when I see it,” is not a professional thing to say. Describing and discussing the abstract is what we do.”

I am always keen to get feedback from y’all on these things. What other metaphors and examples do you use to help set the right balance between the Ferrari in the Forest and the Spacecraft made out of Marshmallows?

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Marc Monday

Helping technology companies win new customers through partnerships. Building cross-functional teams driving change and transformation. Lifelong learner.