How Do You Eat An Elephant?


First Of All, Why Would You Eat An Elephant?

As my friend and partner Bryan O’Rourke once said to me, “How do you eat an elephant?

I replied very intelligently, “Hmm…I don’t know.”

“One bite at a time”, he said.

“Oh”, I said, all the while thinking ‘Why the hell would I want to eat an elephant?’.

Of Elephants & CRM Implementations

Surprisingly, there may really be benefits to learning how to eat an elephant…

CRM implementation projects can be like elephants – large, hairy, and complex.  Developing an initial strategy for how to best complete a successful implementation can be a daunting and overwhelming  task when the project is viewed as a singular unit.  This is where knowing how to eat elephants comes in handy.  Learn to break down the project into bite-sized chunks.  More importantly, if you’re in an outside consulting role, be sure to communicate this strategy to your clients.  In previous posts I’ve talked about working with the client’s internal project manager on the implementation; it’s highly effective when you communicate this elephant-eating strategy to him or her.  The reason is that taking on the task of implementing a new system like this not only involves a lot of work in process design and technical effort, but there is a great deal of change management that needs to occur which is often a source of frustration for a company’s leadership.  Therefore, using a chunking strategy can create quick wins and help foster more rapid adoption.

What is Chunking?

One definition of Chunking is, “to organize items into familiar manageable units”.  Psychologists have coined the term “chunking” in reference to studying cognitive learning and memorization in humans, and it’s actually quite interesting – but in this case I’m simply referring to breaking something large into two or more smaller, more manageable pieces.

Let’s say you were tasked with giving a 30-minute speech.  If you used a chunking strategy you might first break your speech into 3 equal 10-minute topics.  Then, you’d take those 3 topics and break them into 3 equal 3-minute and 20-second sections.  For example, a speech on dead presidents may look like the outline below.

George Washington – 10 minutes

  1. Childhood – 3:20
  2. Presidency – 3:20
  3. Post-Presidency – 3:20

Thomas Jefferson – 10 minutes

  1. Childhood – 3:20
  2. Presidency – 3:20
  3. Post-Presidency – 3:20

John F. Kennedy – 10 minutes

  1. Childhood – 3:20
  2. Presidency – 3:20
  3. Post-Presidency – 3:20

Having nine very succinct sections makes it much easier to begin preparing information and practicing the speech.  Chunking is all about breaking something large into bite-sized, more manageable pieces.

A great tool that I came across recently is called XMind.  This is an open source software program that is great for anyone in project management because it gives you a way to visually chunk your projects.  You can map out your projects in whatever way makes sense – by function, by team, by task, chronologically.  Having a visual depiction is an excellent way to communicate with clients and co-workers.

I’ll be curious to see if anybody actually tries to map out how to eat an elephant.

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