This week in my Project Management course I was tasked with blogging about a project that I took on and the activities that resulted in both the success and failures of the overall outcomes of the project.
We were asked to look at Greer’s The Project Management Minimalist: Just enough PM to rock your project (2010). At the completion of each project “Post Mortem” Review Questions are distributed to the project team. In short these questions dissect the project looking at the things that went well and why? And explore those things that didn’t go as well and why?
This particular project or event was one of the most important undertakings and one of the largest projects that I had taken on to date. I am certain that some of you reading this blog post may be able to relate to this post and others of you may not personally relate, but I can certainly guarantee that everyone out there reading this has either read book on the subject, watched a movie or perhaps even written their own story.
The monumental project that I am referring to is my wedding. A multimillion dollar industry. People spend millions on this one-day event. The wedding planners, the caterers, the invitations, the guest list and let’s not forget about the dress; after eight years my head is still reeling from all of the meticulous planning.
So let me begin by first saying that despite the few mishaps that I will discuss later in this blog, my wedding day was “wonderful” that being said however, it was not the vision that I had in mind!
I set out the moment the ring was on my finger, thousands of dollars in wedding magazines (pre Pinterest) a wedding planner book and a million ideas. It was great I meticulously planned every detail.
Just like any project I set out with a plan, I chose my Drivers and my Supporters and of course there were a few Observers as well. This project was a one-year project from start to finish. Let me also share that during this time my fiancée (Driver) who at times felt more like an Observer was deployed to the Middle East; but I digress.
To understand what truly went well in this project also requires that you the reader understand what is referred to as the “Nuts and Bolts” or as Greer (2010) likes to refer to them as the guidelines for Project Managers
- Step 1: Define the project concept, then get support and approval.
This phase of the project went well. The concept was to have a wedding of our dreams check and to have plenty of support and approval check and check. In fact, one might agree that there was a bit more support than was actually needed.
- Step 2: Get your team together and start the project.
This phase of the planning period also went quite well. Although at times some difficult decisions about who would be a Driver and who would be a supporter became a bit; shall we say “muted”? Some that weren’t as actively involved wanted to be and others that were didn’t and then there were those that took everything that I said, did and didn’t say so personally that I seriously considered eloping on several occasions, if for no better reason than to avoid my “team”.
- Step 3: Figure out exactly what the finished work products will be.
This overall turned out well however, there were times that I can now reflect upon and have a definition for. I think in the Instructional Design world we would refer to this as the “Scope Creep” Stolovitch, (n.d.). For those who may be unfamiliar with what that is, simply stated it is when you have all sorts of ideas for a project and want to try and “cram” them into the current project. Your intentions are good and so are the ideas but sometimes the budget just isn’t there, the time and perhaps the ideas would be better suited for a separate project.
- Step 4: Figure out what you need to do to complete the work products. (Identify tasks and phases.)
This phase of the project was ongoing. I had every detail planned every stakeholder in place and the budget set. More about this phase later.
- Step 5: Estimate time, effort, and resources.
This step overall was one that I found to a bit tougher. I didn’t realize how much planning went into such a large project as this. The effort was there generally on my part but I did find that as time went on the momentum of my team and occasionally of myself was lacking. Honestly for such a large project the resources were never enough. I found that there were several hiccups along the way. Often there were time constraints, outside pressures and pesky things like life, other responsibilities etc. that always seemed to stand in the way of my overall project. I could have tried to have planned a bit better, budgeted my time better and made certain that the resources were plentiful and that the “money tree” was always blooming, but let’s be realistic some of those things are truly just out of our control. This was a “bitter” pill to swallow for a control freak like myself. Bottom line however, is that it all got accomplished and the end result was met. Albeit perhaps not exactly the way that I had envisioned it.
- Step 6: Build a schedule.
I set out once again with an amazing plan. My stakeholders however, often had other plans. It seemed at times like the universe and time were plotting against me. My fiancée and I were literally a continent away from each other and what seemed to be important to me at that particular moment in time may not have been nearly as important to him at the same time. Thus he became the observer where somethings were concerned. My timeline was a personal one and often my urgency was not shared by the other stakeholders, the Drivers or the Supporters. In fact, a perfect example of this was when my dress arrived. It was a beautiful dress the kind of dress that I had dreamt about since I was a young girl dressed up in a veil on my head AKA: Pillow case.
I ordered the dress online, was assured that it would arrive on time and that it would “fit” like a glove. It arrived literally two weeks before my wedding day. It was breathtaking, perfect and mine. I was so excited that I rushed into the bedroom to try it on only to find that it wouldn’t zip all the way. My heart sank, I began to break out in a cold sweat, I was panicking. “The world was against me”.
Hindsight being 20/20 I could have and should have planned better for once again another hiccup. You will all be happy to know however, that I found someone to the tailor the dress and it was stunning!
- Step 7: Estimate the costs.
Wow! Anyone who has ever planned a similar project or been a part of the planning of such an undertaking should be able to relate to this. I had a budget set for my project and then I had another budget set for my project. The point being that I am ashamed to admit that this part of the project most certainly did not go as planned. Once again my fiancée and I put together our spreadsheet of absolutes and nice to haves and tailored those down to what we believed to be quite realistic, manageable and most importantly affordable. Unfortunately, that “Scope Creep” that I spoke about earlier often crept up and our budget became much more of a hypothetical than an actual. Although looking back it wasn’t too terrible but I am ashamed to say that for this particular project we did find ourselves thousands of dollars in the “red”.
- Step 8: Keep the project moving.
The project most certainly kept on moving. There were times that I thought it would never end! How is it that something so wonderful and exciting can be so mentally and physically draining? No matter what the obstacle the project was always full speed ahead.
- Step 9: Handle scope changes.
Changes in a project this size or any size for that matter are always going to be inevitable. I am one that has a very difficult time with change but if there is one thing that I learned in planning a project of this caliber is that I am capable of change. I may not like it and I may not be as optimistic as some may be but I am living proof that it can be dealt with and the end results of some changes may actually surprise you~
- Step 10: Close out phases, close out the project.
The close out phase or final phase of the project was a bit bitter sweet. On one hand you are excited in this case to start your new life with your “soul mate” and best friend on the other you are left with photographs and memories, left over wedding cake, a dress that let’s face it will never wear again and no your daughter will likely never dawn it either. It reminds me of Christmas. We spend months and months planning, shopping, scheduling etc. for one day and when it’s over we are left with a since of nostalgia. Not that there is anything wrong with nostalgia but we spend so much of our time and effort on our projects that sometimes they become more than just a “project” they become a part of our life. The closing of this particular project most certainly became the beginning of a whole slew of other projects. Who would ever have imagined that my wedding would prepare me for a career in Project Management.
Greer, M. (2010). The project management minimalist: Just enough PM to rock your projects! (Laureate custom ed.). Baltimore: Laureate Education, Inc