This article is written by Seamus Woods, Senior Lecturer with The Institute (IPMA Level A - Certified Projects Director)
“If you fail to plan, you plan to fail”
How often have you heard somebody say – “why the hell didn’t he consider that when he planned it or “he’s all talk and no action”. These comments could be something you might say about somebody or vice versa. However, if you want to achieve something, either in your private life or at work, and also help you get a better work/life balance by being more effective, then you must be able to plan, organise and communicate, otherwise all the good intentions in the world are worthless. You have got to be able to follow through on an idea or solving a problem. Do you want to be remembered as a non-achiever, as perhaps aptly summed up by this poem?
“He slept beneath the moon He basked beneath the sun He lived a life of going to do And died with nothing done”
One of the solutions to this problem is applying effective project management principles.
This is the starting point for all projects when we need to make a positive decision about the ultimate goal we need to achieve.
We need to be very clearly focused on this goal so we can share it with other members of the team. It is a proven fact that people who set themselves stretching goals are the highest achievers who seem to be least affected by negative stress.
“Goals are dreams with deadlines”, according to Walt Disney, who knew a thing or two about achieving success.
It is the plan that tells you where you are supposed to be in the first place. Without a plan, you have no idea if you are doing okay or not. If you have no plan, you have no control. You need to know – How long will it take? – How much will it cost? – What must be done?
In Project Management, planning means breaking large tasks down into smaller, more easily managed chunks which can produce a more realistic schedule, thus removing the danger of “ground rush”, which is a term used in parachuting when in the last stages of a jump the ground rushes to hit you when you are unprepared.
This is when limbs are broken because all the energy is crammed into the last few seconds, and panic ensues, so we forget our basic training.
This can happen when we haven’t set ourselves the correct priorities in the Project plan. Planning is a necessity.
Risk Assessment allows you to quantify and qualify any predictable problems in a project, and it is acknowledged that by taking a proactive stance, we can better cope with problems if they do arise in our work or social lives.
We can develop contingency plans to give us planned alternatives if problems occur in our lives or our work, instead of having to react to unplanned emergencies.
You can use techniques, which ensure we only concern ourselves with the really important issues and confront these first before becoming bogged down or sidetracked by irrelevances. It is often referred to as the 80:20 rule.
At this point, work begins on implementing the plan. This means putting it into action as soon as possible. The famous quote “Procrastination is the thief of time” holds very true.
Of course, it is not always possible to do it on your own. Achieving something, just as in managing projects, requires teamwork.
Remember, as in our private lives, where those with good friends have more stimulating lives, it is crucial that people learn to rely on the support of others by consciously delegating and thus sharing the load.
The delegation also shows that you respect and trust people, which will build personal loyalty and strong personal relationships and in turn will encourage people to take ownership of specific tasks and feel part of the big picture.
“Often in life, we don’t learn from our experiences and find ourselves in unproductive relationships or situations.”
As work is performed, it is monitored. Essentially, control is the day-to-day effort to keep project works on track.
By setting very clear milestones to review our progress in life or a project, we are in a better position to take corrective action if things are not going to plan. Alternatively, we can give ourselves a positive reward if we have achieved a significant milestone ahead of schedule.
Control also requires you to give regular feedback to all stakeholders on how well you are progressing.
This is defined as the Learning Stage of a project when we collect and store data on our successes and shortcomings. This ensures that we do not continue to find ourselves following the same predictable path to failure.
Often in life, we don’t learn from our experiences and find ourselves in unproductive relationships or situations, which create a downward spiral into negative self-criticism.
In your current organisation, you will find increasingly that much of your work will be done in a project format.
Remember, a project is a problem/need scheduled for a solution and as Roy Keane said: “If you fail to plan – you plan to fail.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Seamus is a certified Project Director at IPMA Level A, and a certified Project Management Professional (PMP®) and lectures with the Institute of Project Management.
He has over 25 years of experience in project management, programme management, and portfolio management in the public sector in roles such as:
- Head of Portfolio Management HSE - Head of Change Management, Tusla Agency (Designate) - The Projects Director for Tusla Agency Set Up