Last weekend I found myself sitting on a bench overlooking a village green, watching a cricket match. My companion didn’t know the first thing about the game and was keen for it to be explained, ball by ball.
Why are they moving those white walls? Why is he polishing the ball? Why does that chap (they were all men; is there such a thing as mixed cricket at this level? Surely there should be) wear studs on his shoes? Why is the man with the gloves standing so close to the stumps? Why does that bowler take such a long run?
This was strictly amateur cricket. They were plainly enjoying themselves but much of their, shall we say, technique, was affected. That is, they’d seen it on TV and copied it. The bowler taking the 30 yard run up managed to make the ball bounce twice, several times, before it reached the wicket – and the keeper was an inch behind the stumps so plainly knew he wasn’t under threat. The bowler polishing the ball took a 3 step run up – and retrieved the ball, several times, after it had bounced across a nearby car park, travelling 60 yards over tarmac. Did any of that make a difference to the game? Unlikely. But it almost certainly increased their connection with the game and their level of engagement.
I see the same in projects that I review. Techniques are copied:- Project plans, Risk registers, Meeting minutes, Governance frameworks, change controls.
But, just like the bowler polishing the ball, the effect of just applying a technique you’ve seen somewhere else is minimal. If it’s just there for decoration, for conformance, to show the rules are being followed, it won’t make a difference. It may increase connection and engagement, but it doesn’t increase the chance of success.