Project Management Is For Life, Not Just The Office

Jul 28, 2020

There are many ways to endure a pandemic lockdown. And sometimes the wisdom of the crowd can be wrong.

So over March and April this year, as most of the country went big on bread making, moustaches, and home-schooling, I went another route. “Why change your life just because you can’t go out?” I thought. No – I had a better idea. Against the advice of anyone who’d discuss it with me, instead of hunkering down and shutting up shop, I cracked on with my biggest project of the year – my house renovations.

Now, halfway through, I realise a few things. Number one – almost anything could have gone wrong with a project like this. The risks were immense, even before a global pandemic reared into view. But – and here’s the good bit – almost nothing has. We’re on track from a time and budget point of view, my key stakeholders family are still talking to me, and even with the pressures of lockdown, every day I can see progress being made.

There’s no real secret to how this panned out. After all – just because it’s a personal project, you don’t lose your PM chops. I reckon there are three things we got right on this project, three core lessons for any PM.

First up, my wife and I committed time to plan with our architect. Ranking and prioritising our requirements, we agreed the base build (our MVP), as well as our nice to haves. For the purposes of this project that started with a space we could live in with teenagers, moving up to things like a pool.
Second, we stuck to the plan. The three most dangerous words in any project are “Can we just …”. We banned that approach, eliminating death by a thousand cost and schedule cuts. We kept the original vision as the North Star, and in doing so stayed on track for delivery.
Last (and in my view, most important), we chose a vastly experienced delivery team. Both our lead builder and his partner are closer to sixty than fifty. How is that helping us? Well, they’re not burning time and money explaining basics to an apprentice. They make few mistakes, reducing the cost of rework. And crucially, they match technical skills with the EQ to advise how the build can go better, faster and cheaper, with the experience and confidence to propose slight variations to our original architectural design.

IT projects are no different. You may have a clear vision of what’s important for your business, and a realistic and mature team keeping their eyes on the prize. But it takes an experienced PM to bring it all home, working with you to deliver your vision.