Fit for Purpose


There is a great presentation by Tom Peters where he talks about some organisations that get so big that they forget about some of the basic, simple, everyday stuff.

He produces a tiny shampoo bottle that he has taken from a hotel bathroom and he asks, rhetorically, ‘who was the average user of this bottle?’ The answer being that most likely this was going to be used by a middle-aged business traveler who more than likely wore reading glasses. He then asked, still rhetorically, ‘where was this likely to be used?’ And the answer this time was of course it would be used when the middle aged business traveler, who most likely wore reading glasses, was taking a shower. He paused for effect and summed up; this product was most likely to be used by this guy in a shower without his reading glasses in in steamy environment with water running and when he wanted to decipher between the two almost identical bottles of shower gel and shampoo. Result: frustration and improper use of products.

A definition of ‘fit for purpose’ is ‘something that is fit for purpose is good enough to do the job it was designed to do’, but you could argue that the shampoo bottle, standing next to the shower gel bottle, and sometimes also next to a ‘body lotion’ bottle, is fit for purpose. The trouble is you need to distinguish the shampoo bottle first to then use it and for it to truly become ‘fit for purpose’.

In a project all of the resources need to be fit for purpose if you, and your business, wish for the most successful and least costly outcome. People need to be the right people and skilled/trained in the right way, facilities need to be suitable to the purpose that they will be put to, equipment must be appropriate in design and availability, and the actual project deliverables need to also be deemed ‘fit for purpose’ – this is the responsibility of the project manager.

There can be shortcuts, and there can be cut backs but the end result always needs to be considered in the context of the impact of utilising something or someone that is not ‘fit for purpose’. And always be aware that such an approach can, in the end, make the deliverables so constrained that they fail the ‘fit for purpose’ evaluation.

Just don’t take the whole ‘fit for purpose’ too far:

In a circus, the Bearded Lady and the World’s Strongest Man fell in love, and decided to start a family. Soon the Bearded Lady fell pregnant.

A few weeks before she was due to give birth the Bearded Lady and the Circus Ring-Master were talking.

‘How’s it going?’ the Ring-Master asked, ‘Are you well?’

‘Yes thanks, we are very excited’ said the Bearded Lady ‘We have so many plans for the baby and we want to be supportive parents’.

‘That’s great’ said the Ring-Master ‘Do you want a boy or a girl?’

‘Oh, we really don’t mind as long as it’s healthy’ said the Bearded Lady ‘Oh and it fits into the cannon…’


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2 Responses to “Fit for Purpose”

  1. tcagley Says:

    I believe most leader think the consider fit for purpose on teams but do you think that when teams are tailored that the purpose is perhaps it is less the job/project/product than their personal biases?

  2. thelazyprojectmanager Says:

    I think that personal bias is always there but for a project team the ‘fit for purpose’ is more about attitude and aptitude to bring about a positive change – tailoring the team too specifically perhaps even limits the potential outcome.

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