I’ve been lucky enough to be involved in quite a few of projects. I do like projects there is always something that makes them unique and they add to the entertainment or nonsense of life ….. people, subject, location. I bought a plane for a project once, second time I had to I left it to someone else! They’re quite cheap considering, but difficult to park!
One obvious thing that happens, is that when projects don’t go to plan (and most projects don’t go exactly as planned for various reasons) they become challenging. Sometimes problem gets acknowledged and it’s not so bad, but the more difficult problems are magnified by being ignored, lost in the multiple other things to do, in the hope they can be rectified by someone else.
I’ve been as guilty of ignoring a problem as the next person and sometimes patience is a virtue … but more often than not hope is a killer. Hope that somehow carrying on the same, will produce different results and that the project will suddenly be back on track. The end date stays the same, but you’ve lost four weeks and somehow you will make that time up or maybe hope there is something in the contract that was overlooked so you can somehow claw lost cash back.
Sometimes you get lucky, but the law of probability is that you will not rectify the full problem … (as boring as it sounds and as much as you want to be the superhero) …. It’s better to accept what’s done is done, report and readjust to what is achievable based on what is likely to happen moving forward. As good as you are, you probably won’t claw the program back eg. you won’t complete furnishing and commissioning 50 rooms in 2 weeks when you’ve only completed 10 in 1 so far. You won’t claw the budget back and be able to save 100% on a contract cost that was missed in the quote. Even if you think you are superman (read 5 ways a project leak profits)
You’ll waste more money by throwing more effort and time at the problem and exasperate the issue by trying to overturn the probability. Yes, mitigate the best you can, but you should be doing the best you can anyway!
So … if you find your project up the creek without a paddle …. Don’t hope a paddle will turn up!
The chances of you drifting past a paddle shop are very slim .. yes it may happen!! … if you wait, the hope will kill you as you drift off the edge of a waterfall …. It’s better to accept your problem sooner rather than later. Maybe make a rudder out of something and try and divert away from the danger.
Too much of a metaphor … probably …. but I like it, hope you do to. This is first principle thinking and will save you money in the long run!
How often do you look at the prices in a supermarket? The price legally has to be displayed, so it should be there. Maybe you’re lucky enough not to have a budget and you don’t need to pay attention. But if you are looking to get the best value and keep to whatever budget you have, the key information you need is the price.
Likewise, information is a key ingredient to maintain a profit on projects. Either supplying it or receiving it and not only cost data. Without it, who knows what’s going on or has been done? Also, as at a supermarket, where the cost is tied into the volume, perceived quality, lifestyle choice etc … Too much, or focusing on the wrong information is a bad thing, it gets confusing.
The thing about information is that it isn’t useful unless you make sense of it. It’s just a bunch of letters or numbers or marks. These words don’t mean anything unless you understand them! Just a bunch of straight and curved lines on a screen. If you don’t understand English, you won’t understand this!
Without understanding and making information real to you, you can’t make educated decisions.
So how do you make sure you make information become useful and real in a project environment?
This is a little abstract but I hope it works for you, it’s an idea I came up with to help me understand!
Information as an apple tree.
A tree takes nutrients from the soil, sun and rain to grow. These are the building blocks for it. This is the information forming into a tree.
Alas, no two trees grow the same, but you can control them. Prune branches, nip new buds, stake it to grow straight and it will fit the place where it’s growing, to be stronger or look better. If that’s what you want.
Look in the right places and you can predict where and how much fruit there will be.
Then at certain times it produces the apples, the things we need from it, the specific information!
This is how project information works.
At the start there is very little, but you have an idea what it should be. After all, we all know vaguely what an apple tree should look like!
As the project progresses all the different information comes together and it grows bigger. Like the apple tree, you can control it to a certain extent, to make it fit the project environment.
And then at certain stages you pick off the information you need.
How does this help your project?
If you control the information so it fits the project environment, you can get the best information you need.
If you look forward to see how your project is growing, by looking closely and see the signs, you can predict what fruit there is going to be.
If you can pick the fruit (right information) when it is properly developed, you can understand where the project is.
Then you have an informed chance to decide what to do as the project grows.
How do you do this? Well, firstly and importantly understand what information you actually need. Then focus in on the source of that information to predict and confirm when that information is ripe.
Don’t do this and you end up just looking at another tree, hoping it will bear something useful for you to use.
Maybe I’ve overdone the metaphors on this one … but hopefully it makes sense to explain a tricky subject that is very important to your success.
I'd love to hear your views, experiences and comments and if you're interested in finding out more, drop me a line.
Thanks for reading
Hi I'm Simon. I've worked in projects for a while now, either management or design. I love projects but they're frustrating. Hope some of this help you.