Consistent Optimization and Progression
One of my projects this summer has been a gruelling process of stopping a swamp from flooding the cabin. I wrote an article of how I gained control of the flood. What was once a boggy marsh is now a moist meadow with a stream running through. Three moose have even found a safe haven in a grassy area just twenty feet from my back door.
However, because I can only manage this area with a simple shovel, the flooding is still a problem. I can’t seem to keep up. Getting machinery up the steep, rough road is expensive and risky. It would take a lot of work just to keep a tractor from sinking in the mud. Because everything is so slow by hand, I must consistently dig trenches and channel the water into a deeper stream bed. Even after a week’s break, the water starts to swell and find its way into the slight depressions where it can stagnate.
There are a few things I have been doing to keep this swamp at bay with the limited time I have. I think project managers can similarly have limited time and tools on certain projects, and they can apply the same principles in their management practices.
First, I must be consistent with time, working at a regular basis. Fallen pine needles and silt quickly clog sections of the stream, an if I keep the stream bed clear of debris, the water gains enough momentum to naturally carry all of the material downstream. However, even minor blockage can stop the water, and other places can clog in no time. If I don’t take care of it, the stream bed just disappears under a swamp, and I’m back to square one. Part of managing a project is to always keep the project constraints visible. If, for whatever reason, a project manager neglects to do so, scope creep can come quite suddenly, and regaining control of the project constraints is difficult.
Second, if I keep the stream cleared of debris, then I have more time to perfect the flow. For example, I may cut down a dead tree that keeps dropping its pine needles into the water. I may dig a section deeper, wider, or straighter so debris doesn’t collect around the edges when the stream makes a turn. In project management, once the project constraints are under control, the project manager can take this extra time to create better ways of avoiding recurring risks and other problems.
Third, with an optimized stream flow, I am able to locate spots where the water is coming from and progress from there. Although around my cabin the swamp is gone, there are acres of more swamps that flow from higher elevations. The water keeps growing in all directions regardless of whether the main stream is clogged or not. No matter how hard I work on the stream already cut, the water from upper swamps will be a threat. To solve this problem, I must direct each of those sections into one flow, cutting into the upper swamps. This thereby puts more water into the main stream and less water into those random stagnating places. The more water there is, the more efficient it carries out the debris, even helping to carve the ditch wider and deeper. In project management, beyond keeping project constraints visible and controlled, the manager should further locate the sources of €flooding€ and harness those into one path. In other words, a good project manager recognizes where a project needs to progress.
In short, these three aspects combine to manage projects that are consistent, optimized, and progressing. The tools and methodologies implemented in a project should always be accomplishing this. I think the idea of consistent optimization and progression is particularly applicable for those companies that use project cycle management (PCM). In a way, each time a company does a project similar to ones they’ve already done in the past, not having an optimized project management cycle is like the stream getting clogged again. The more efficient the flow, the more time there is for the project manager to funnel in more resources and worry less about risks, scope creep, and everything else that could be a problem.
By Victor Lawson