Work With the Equipment You are Issued

A Project Management Article by Nick McCormick

Have you ever heard the expression, “Play with the equipment you are issued?” It’s used to encourage people to make the most of their God-given talents. Rather than spending time worrying about or wishing they had other skills, they should be grateful for them, sharpen them, and do their absolute best with them.

That happens to be very good advice, but that is not exactly the subject of this article. Instead, I’d like to focus on a variation that I like to call, “Work with the equipment you are issued.” What does it mean? It means we typically have a lot of resources and tools at our disposal in the workplace, but too often we don’t fully utilize them. We need to take advantage of these tools and go into the battle of our everyday work lives fully armored.

Could you imagine playing football without a helmet, or without shoulder pads? The referees wouldn’t allow it. There are actually rules to protect the players from injuring themselves. But even if those rules didn’t exist, wouldn’t it be silly not to take advantage of the equipment if you had it?

Then why is it that project managers continue to manage projects without using the tools that have been issued to them? And even if there are rules requiring the use of some tools or deliverables (The PMO made me do it!), they are used half-way, and the true benefit goes unrealized.

PMs go off to training classes, then study for a few months to get their PMP certifications.  They learn how to create project charters and risk registers, crash schedules, and a host of other interesting things. Then they get back to their jobs and amnesia sets in. They forget the criticality of the critical path, and the value of the earned value analysis.

Why would we consciously go to work without the necessary equipment? There are a few common excuses.

  1. We don’t believe that the tools work – “No way that flies in my shop!
  2. It requires additional work – “I just don’t have time for that.
  3. No one at work uses those tools. We’re afraid to stand out – “My boss wouldn’t even allow me to do that.

There is no place for these excuses. Let’s take a look at them one-by-one.

  1. Won’t work - How can so many be so wrong? Tried and true project management techniques have been developed, but continue to go ignored by so many. We continue to look for answers when they already exist. The fact is we just need to implement them. We don’t know if something will work for us until we try it. So let’s give something a go!
  2. Too Much Work - Yes, there is additional work involved. Few things in life of any value come without sacrifice. The kicker is that the short-term sacrifice can provide a large long-term payoff. If we don’t try, we’ll never experience that payoff.
  3. No One Else Does It - What’s the point of going to work everyday if we’re just going to be like everyone else? Don’t be afraid to make a mistake. Don’t crumble at the first obstacle. Overcome the many barriers that will be thrown your way and make a difference.

Athletes clamor for the latest and greatest training gear and equipment. Employees do  the same. They want the fastest PCs, the best software, etc. Let’s demand the same as PMs, but regardless if we get them or not, let’s actually use the tools at our disposal.

  • Don’t just read a book on project management. Pick something from the book and act on it.
  • Don’t just go to a seminar, comment on how profound it was, and forget about it. Put one of the suggestions to work.
  • Don’t just use Microsoft Project like it is a glorified Excel spreadsheet. Take advantage of some of the many features that it provides to help run your project better.

To be clear, tools are not the only answer. A fool with a tool is indeed still a fool. But, let’s not ignore the tools all together or water them down to such an extent as to make them ineffective. That’s being a fool of a different sort.

In most cases there are no rules forcing us to use the tools or the talents at our disposal, but we have the choice to be more effective and more efficient and to improve the status quo. We have the choice to set the example for others to follow. Give it a shot. Work with the equipment you are issued! Best of luck!

About the Author

Nick McCormick

Nick McCormick is a Manager for an IT services firm where he helps companies support their computer systems. He has built and managed dozens of teams and organizations of information technology professionals.

He spends a good deal of time helping others become successful managers and leaders through his teaching, training, and writing. In fact, that is the mission of his company -- Be Good Ventures, LLC. Find out more about Nick and his company to include his book, "Lead Well and Prosper: 15 Successful Strategies for Becoming a Good Manager," at

Nick McCormick
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