Most of what we do is a project in some way. Make your bed. The project is making the bed. The scope of the project is to get the bed made from start to finish. The tasks are to acquire the bedding (sheets, blankets, mattress covers, etc.) get everything put on the bed in the right sequence and the right way, add pillows and final touches, and closeout – make sure everything is done.
There you have it. We do projects every day in most things we do. If we think about it and are thorough, we probably would never forget things or omit tasks. Especially if we did a project plan and marked tasks complete when they were done. I suppose that’s a little crazy though.
The point being is the basics of project management are not that big of a mystery. First you figure out the scope. What is the limit you are goin g to start and finish? Is the bed frame and mattresses part of the scope? Or are they already in place? How about mattress covers and featherbeds? Maybe you aren’t putting new sheets on the bed but simply making a slept in bed which only requires smoothing out the bedding that is already in place. So you first determine the scope.
Then you plan the tasks. Define the detailed tasks. Assign them. Execute all tasks. Wrap up by ensuring everything got done. Final report that you are complete. (Hey Mom, I’m finished with the bed like you asked!).
As the projects get bigger the plans are much bigger and more complex. There are significantly more tasks and resources to carry out those tasks. It takes a seasoned project manager to coordinate getting those tasks completed, many concurrently, on budget and on time. A seasoned project manager has to be able to understand the minute details of a specific task and perhaps issues/concerns about that task; while at the same time being able to keep in mind the big picture of the entire finished project and how all the tasks fit together to make that finished product.
That requires a person who can juggle a lot of things mentally at the same time; without a cerebral meltdown.
I am a retired project manager that handled complex information technology projects. Am I downplaying my role and saying children could have done what I did? No, not at all; but my children understood the basic concepts of what I was trying to do. First we figured out what kind of system we were going to build. Then we got people to start building it. Then we got the people that were going to use it to come test it and see if it did the right things. Depending on how the tests went we either fixed the bugs or moved it into the final staging system. When the whole staging system was built, there was a final test and then everything went “live” when all the bugs were worked out.
My kids got this concept. So very often the executives I worked with didn’t. Why are we staging? Why are we testing again? Why don’t we put pieces in live? Why? Why? Why?
Sometimes you just wanted to stop explaining and tell them “Trust me, ok?” While there are very seasoned and intelligent project managers that handle very complex projects; like me; every person should be able to manage a project in their life. Children need to be taught basic project management skills. I have seen some of this taught by certain teachers but it really needs to be emphasized. Life is full of projects. Numerous tasks that need to be done in order to accomplish a certain effort. The timing and sequence of the tasks can be critical. The organization and follow up is equally important. Evaluating how the project went when it’s complete allows for learning how to do the next one better. All these functions should be incorporated into people’s lives to help them live easier and less stressful lives.
If people were more organized and planned out they would suffer less stress. Stress is dangerous. It does physical and emotional damage. It does accumulate and catch up with you.
It astounds me when I work with a top executive that does not understand the basic concepts of project management. For example; why do we need a planning phase? If you do not plan you do not have a schedule or any idea what the tasks are, or how many people you need. You don’t know what you need to purchase, build, or need space for. I’m not sure how and where you start without a plan.
My favorite is why we need to test. How do you know if what you built works if you don’t test it? We test everything, don’t we? If you build a table you would test it eventually. Even if you waited until you put that first plate on it; the first plate would be a test. Of course testing ahead of time is wiser; so that you don’t have any accidents if it does fail the test.
So generally, Project Management is in all of our lives. Fixing dinner is a project. Meat, potatoes and a vegetable is your scope. You’ve planned out what you are going to fix; burgers on the grill, French fries in the oven and corn on the cob on the grill also. The tasks are the making the patties, putting them on the grill, seasoning them, flipping them, wrapping the corn in foil, putting them on the grill, putting French fries on tray, putting them in the oven, setting oven temp…… ok you get the idea…. Put the whole meal together on the table and you have delivery. Final evaluation is everything done, is the grill and oven off? Maybe next time I’ll boil the corn to get it done faster. Kids are doing dishes. Project closeout.
If you think of things in that mode you are less likely to forget important tasks. If it is a critical project then writing down tasks and checking them off are probably a good idea. Remember also that it’s not just for old people. All of life is about getting projects done.