As a part of rolling out big changes, I sometimes teach a series of workshops called Project Management-101. In the workshops, I help change teams understand and apply the most basic techniques of project management to reach their goals.
One of the most refreshing things about helping people who are new to this field is that they usually have no problem understanding or benefiting from these seemingly complex ideas as long as they are presented clearly and simply.
Case in Point: I love to cook, so I often use a reference list from a 1933 General Foods Cookbook called “All About Home Baking” to illustrate how effective project management largely involves applying simple rules and common sense. (I bought this classic cookbook at a yard sale years ago and keep it on my desk as a reminder to keep things simple.)
In the introduction to the cookbook’s first chapter there’s a wonderfully straight-forward list of six baking rules that could just as well have been titled “Six Rules of Project Management“. Over the next few posts, I’ll share these six insights. The first is “Be Orderly“…
1. Be Orderly. The cookbook tells us to do a bit of planning before we start to bake. Watch how closely these tips apply to the planning steps of any project:
- Choose your recipe, read it carefully & understand it clearly.
- Gather your ingredients before you start.
- Assemble your utensils and lay them out in the order you will use them.
- Cultivate a “do it right” attitude and you will make the baking process a joy and save time, money and many a worried moment as you go along.
So plan to plan your project.
Have a recipe. Some Project Managers call their favorite recipe a “project delivery methodology”. Others call it a PMBOK-compliant process. I argue that it’s not so important exactly what process you use – but it is critical that you have a proven process to plan and execute your change projects and it’s critical that you at least try to consistently follow it.
Get Your Act Together. Don’t skip the important step of laying things out before you start to dig in.
Consider what phases your project can be broken into. Give yourself the time to understand the overall initiative and how it fits into the strategic goals of your team, department and company. Get the big picture right and you will avoid clashing with immovable objects downstream.
Get Off on the Right Foot: Finally, the best time to set the pace for diligent project management is Day-1 of the planning process. Get the project team and stakeholders used to your expectations for clear activity definition, resource commitments, fact-based status reporting and sign-off for accepting deliverables. It can be just as difficult to introduce discipline half-way through a change project as it would be to add a forgotten teaspoon of baking soda to a cake once it’s been in the oven for 25 minutes…
In my next post, I’ll get into the second project management recommendation from the kitchen: Use Good Tools.
Question for Chatter:
- Can a complex topic like project management really be compared to such a simple thing as baking?
- What other disciplines have you applied to explain the basics of your profession?