How about I compare managing a project with driving to get to your very important job interview? Believe it or not they both share the same principles to attain the desired objectives and outcome.
You see, anything that requires an action where there is an objective, with a start and a finish date can be construed as a project or a task. Where success depends on how well you studied the scope, how aware you are on the impacts of the knowns and the unknowns and the preparations made to avail all pre-requisites. And more importantly, clear all the roadblocks that may impede the “before” and “during” the execution of the tasks.
Well this is my story…
It was a Monday morning and I got a call to an 8 am Friday job interview for a Project Management Software Trainer position. Back then, it was opportunity of a lifetime that opened up to me. So, after jotting down all the necessary information and sharing the excitement to my love ones, I was immediately in google doing research on everything I can get my hands on about the company and its business. I printed the location from google maps including various route options. There I found the location to be one-and-a-half-hour drive from home and in the middle of the metropolis where unfortunately a place I was not familiar with driving. I also took note of the weather forecast on the interview day.
The following morning, I inquired from close friends about feedback on the driving conditions on how to get to the address. I asked about options for parking, and good place to eat if I get hungry. I also reviewed advanced functionality the software applications I used for work and the systems that I haven’t used for some time. That same day I applied for a leave for two days, one day for the interview and a day before so I can scout the place and practice driving to it.
Then Wednesday morning before going to work, I took my car to the nearby auto repair shop for maintenance – it’s been a while since it had an oil change so I needed to make sure it will be in a good condition before the BIG day.
I woke up early Thursday to rehearse exactly how I will drive to the job interview on the actual day. I followed the best route from google maps combined with advice from my friends. As I was driving along I got stuck in the traffic for two hours due to a bridge repair that seemed would take days to complete. Good thing that I found this out one day ahead, else it could have been catastrophic!
Anyway, when I arrive at the location I explored for the best parking spot – drive a bit to around three blocks for the best option. Then I sat down in a coffee shop near the lobby of the building and tried to observe the people working there. How they dressed up, whether they seemed happy. After all, I will potentially work there – might as well see what it is like.
After an hour of observing, I went shopping for a decent pair of shoes and a new shirt. I also got a hair cut, ate lunch then went home using the alternate route at the same time check the road condition.
Dinner with my daughter and wife was brief and I was ready for bed early.
Friday morning at lasts! I couldn’t contain the excitement! Fortunately, driving went smoothly. I arrived in the location 30 mins early so I had time for coffee and opportunity to go to the washroom to check my hair and fix my tie. I wasn’t rushing at all. I had a fresh feeling and more importantly I felt so confident that though clueless on the interview questions, I knew I would do well because of the amount of preparation I did!
So which project management principles here apply? All I did was research, ask, plan, and more importantly identify the relevant risks and mitigated it (example: the practice drive, car fix, exploring the area, and arriving few minutes early). Oh yeah, my eyes were always focused in attaining the ultimate goal (with excitement & enthusiasm).
Do you think it’s worthwhile to spend more time planning and doing lots of preparation before the actual project execution? Could the result of my objective have been different if I didn’t do so?
Well technically project execution phase was just two and a half hours, One-and-a-half-hour drive, plus thirty minutes wait and the one-hour interview time, but the preparation time I spent doing my version of Conceptual Engineering, Scope Study, Detailed Design, Prototyping and Procurement was far more greater. Hence, the pay off was tremendous!
Next Time (Part II) I will discuss how to apply these principle in a multi-faceted, multi-discipline, more complicated tasks or project.
Please leave comment below. BTW I did “Aced” the interview and it was the start of my wonderful journey to world of project management.