The Plate Spinner and The Canoeist

The ideals of running projects can be split into 2 equally successful patterns, Agile and Waterfall. The project manager in each pattern can be described as either The Plate Spinner (Agile) or the Canoeist (Waterfall). Choosing the right Project Manager for your project depends heavily on both what and how you want to achieve what you want to achieve.

The Plate Spinner has a knack of moving quickly between ‘plates’, knowing just the right amount of effort to twist the poles and has developed the knack of getting the plates going over years of practice. Just as each plate begins to slow, they are ready to spin it back up and keep the process going. One of the downsides to plate spinning is broken plates, obviously, but the Plate Spinner is adept in getting others to help not only to get the plates spinning, but also to watch them and advise when they need help to keep going. The great thing about plate spinning is that there is almost no limit to the number of plates you can spin at any one time, although more plates require more skill and more help. The effects of plate spinning can be seen very quickly with almost immediate results. However, there is a great deal more initial care required in the planning of plate spinning, how many plates do you want to spin, how far apart do you want them spinning, how big do you want the plates. The plate spinner can also adapt quickly if more plates are required to be spun, but as more plates are spun more effort is required.

By contrast, the canoeist loves to journey, to see the sights and recognise how far they have come by checking off key points, or sights, along the journey. But the canoeist invariably spends a lot more money to make that journey. It’s a great ride and relatively predictable, key points can be planned in advance much like checking the sights off on a map. The canoeist knows where the rough patches of wild water are likely to be and can plan for them. The river runs a set course, the canoeist knows how long it is and, once the journey is planned, knows what and where the sights are the have to be acknowledged as key points or stages. Once the canoeist has gotten going it is very difficult to make changes to the journey, the river only runs its course, and the canoeist can only make minor adjustments to deal with the challenges that the river throws up. To view different sights or ride a different river or in a different direction requires the canoeist to stop and rethink the journey – not something that can easily or cheaply be done (after all the effort has already been expended to get to the point where you decide to change)

In project terms both The Plate Spinner and The Canoeist can achieve, the same great results, they just achieve them in uniquely different ways. That’s not to say that a plate spinner cannot also be a canoeist and visa-versa, but, inevitably, they will have their preferences.

The key is to identify for your project do you want to spin plates or do you want to go on a journey. Once you have done that you know which type of project manager you need for the job!

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