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Fat, Lazy And Slow

September 15, 2016

First it’s two minutes, then four, then six, then the next thing you know, we’re the U.S. mail. 

– FedEx Manager Chuck Noland in “Castaway”

I stared at the scale and the number showing on its electronic readout: 210. The scale had to be wrong. There was no way I weighed 210 lbs. I’d never weighed more than about 160. . .well, maybe 170 after college. . .and I was 180 when I got fitted for a new suit. . .and. . .uh oh. 

When hiking, the weight of your backpack should typically be 25% to 33% of your body weight. Not bad when you consider a 180 lbs man (I lost the weight here.) That’s 45 – 60 lbs. But, when you are a 70 lbs Boy Scout, it’s only 17.5 – 23 lbs. 

Last night I met with our scout troop and talked about camping and backpacking. We had a backpacking trip last weekend. Most of the boys did great, a few of them struggled. In business we’d call this meeting the post mortem. (Interestingly that’s what a medical examiner would call it too.) The military would call it a debrief. We just called it “Wednesday night scouts.” 

On a backpacking trip, weight becomes an important consideration. Serious backpackers will agonize over an extra ounce here or there. I’m not a serious backpacker. I do try to limit the weight. For example, I recently bought a new sleeping bag. It is much lighter than my previous bag. 

The problem for me is the same problem that Tom Hanks’ character had in Castaway and the same problem I had when I gained 40 lbs unexpectedly; it’s the incremental things.

Should I bring an emergency rain poncho? Sure, that’s a good thing to have and it only weighs a couple of ounces. Well, when we did the Silver Lake hike, not all the boys had a rain poncho. Maybe I’ll throw in a couple extra. 

Hand warmers? Sure, it’s going to get down to the 30s at night. . .And I’ll just throw in a couple of extra just in case. 

Day pack? Yep. But, when we did Zions, Kragen didn’t have a day pack. I should throw in another one. It’s only an extra 3 oz. 

Gloves? Sure, I might need them for warmth, but also they make excellent “oven mitts” for taking pots off stoves. Oh, and I should probably bring both my backpacking stoves. And this extra water is important. And. . .and . . And. . .

In project management we call this “scope creep.” Each additional feature by itself is worthwhile and the cost of implementing each new feature is minimal. And who doesn’t want to be the guy who says YES to his clients? But, the danger is very real. Without a strict effort to say NO and say it consistently and forcefully, a one day delay to add new features becomes two days. Two days becomes a week. A week drags on into a month. 

How does a project get 6 months behind?

One day at a time.

The goal, in project management and in backpacking, is to include everything you need, but nothing you don’t. If it sounds impossible, it’s because it is. However, you can work on getting better. The most important skill is saying NO.

No to the extra serving of pie.

No to the 2 minute delay in your package delivery.

No to the extra gear in your backpack.

No to the really cool, but extra feature that wasn’t in the original spec.

Saying YES too often is what leads to being fat, lazy and slow. 

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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(c) 2016 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

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