As a project manager, one often feels the job is a runaway roller-coaster. The question is…how did we get there? How did our best-laid plans get pushed off track? Most project managers can put together a beautiful project plan, and man, oh man, does that project plan shine. So, how could anything go awry?
Yet, inevitably, challenges and surprises arise and push that plan to its limits.
So, in terms of Project Planning, my favorite things from 2013 are watermelons and marshmallows—things that are sticky and messy and apply more to project management than you may think.
The watermelons of project management are the obvious surprises. They are hard to miss (ever try to dodge a watermelon being thrown at you?!) but challenging to fix. In project management, the watermelons do not follow along with the perfect plan and are a bit obvious, if difficult to navigate; one knows that particular challenge needs to be fixed, but sometimes one doesn’t know how to go about it. The critical lesson is this: don’t get flustered by the watermelons; embrace them as part of the project manager’s role. Take the watermelons on as a challenge and adjust accordingly.
Marshmallows are the subtle issues that are rarely apparent. Most of the time, you don’t feel the marshmallow when it is pushing you over the edge, but those soft issues often bring you to the irreversible “over budget” state or create surprise delays in your delivery. For example, it could be the resource who is quietly struggling, eating up budget and time, or the vendor who didn’t give an accurate quote. You deliver in the end, but you spent more money than anticipated, and/or your deadline is not met. Many times you need to use your emotional intelligence to catch the subtle cues from others about the project. And that can truly be a sticky, messy business.
Recognizing both the subtle clues (the marshmallows) and embracing the larger changes (the watermelons) with Allen’s team of outstanding Project Managers has been my favorite part of 2013. Our job goes beyond pre-planning; by anticipating challenges large and small, we are ready for surprises and prepared to identify and adjust quickly when the subtle issues arise. By addressing these issues early and carefully adjusting to change, we can enjoy the challenges in project management and keep the project on track—with the roller-coaster moving at an appropriate, and enjoyable, speed.
Hopefully anticipating both the watermelons and marshmallows can help make your 2014 an easier ride.