The 3 rules of project management


So – Its day one. I’m up earlier than the birds and the creatures of the night are starting to go to bed. I have been dreading this day for more than two weeks.

Today is “Project Planning” day.

I’ve realized early in my career that planning is the most important part of any project, just as Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. I can go into a day without breakfast, but inevitably by 10AM I am worth about as much as that ‘creature of the night’ going to bed.

So I make a nice big pot of coffee and settle into what I know is going to be a long day. As I open the ‘Project Management Tool’ that I developed on Excel, my mind starts racing with all of the items I am going to need to put to paper. The computer makes its usual funny noise and the first emails of the day start pouring in…all 19 MB worth. I put excel on hold and start poking around the endless list of items in my ‘Inbox’. ‘mark as read, delete, flag as important, flag as follow up, diarise in calendar, reply, forward’ – DONE. For now…

By now it’s well past 9 O ‘Clock and excel is still waiting for me. Somehow I’m sure it’s laughing at me also, taunting me. Yelling “Naa…na na naaaa na”. If only I had voice recognition software I could tell it where to go stick itself. I’m digressing.

Rule # 1 of Project Management: NEVER show excel that you are scared.

So eventually I get the days routine straightened out and I’m ready to tackle Excel – it looks worried. It should be. 10 o’clock has come and gone, so has tea time, and I am at last getting some work done. So many items to consider…such a small keyboard.
I have learnt to listen to what Excel wants and to answer. It asks Client name and project name and I enter it. It asks type of project, project value, payment schedule, time frames and contact persons and I respond by feeding its hunger for data. With rather little fuss I complete the ‘project scope and outline’. Next items on the list are ‘Required Resources’, ‘Project Budget’ and the “you’ll never be able to standardize me!!” – PROJECT IMPLEMENTATION PLAN. It’s ominous. It never works out the way you plan. Why not? Because we cannot plan for the ‘Human factor’! That is, the little gripes and grieves of the project staff, specifically the Facilitators and Assessor, and of course the client.

Rule # 2 of Project Management: Try to please everyone! Go on, try to. I dare you.

So finally I have worked through the most challenging bits and pieces of the planning process. Excel is completely out of breath, and I leave it to recuperate while I have lunch. Once back I attempt to sort our learner placements and worksites, but to no avail. I simply do not have enough information from the client to do this yet. Excel smirks.

Last thing to do before 5 o’clock comes is identify the project team, role-players and possible challenges. I send the relevant information to the client and cringe when I type the words ‘First Draft’ in the message body. Excel rolls on the floor laughing.

Rule # 3 of Project Management: If it first you don’t succeed – tell excel that you are switching to Microsoft Project.

The day comes to a screeching halt when, 10 to 5, I get the email from my client that they are not happy with the time frames, HR resources or Implementation plan. They give a few suggestions on what they would ‘like’ to see happening and how they ‘think’ the project should be implemented.

I check my calendar, and mark tomorrow as “Project Planning” day.

Excel can hardly contain itself…

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