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  • Writer's pictureRhys

The Toughest far

Project Management....a key skill that everyone is expected to have. Typically, we are expected to learn as we go - "hey, can you be a part of this project? O, and by the way, can you run it as well, it won't take much of your time."

...and so the fire begins!

We are launched in to the deep end of the pool, we do not know what we should be doing, when or even if what we are doing is helping. And more often than not, this is something that you are working on over and above your everyday job!

It's not quite the formula that works.

After a period of time of working as a project manager and experiencing a number of different projects, you will start to build your skills. It will typically feel hectic and stressful - it is common to fall in to the reactive project management style which is all about responding to issues. And, this leads to working through lunch breaks, doing a few extra hours each day, "just" popping in on the weekend to get a couple of things out of the way...

...and so it keeps on building, adding more stress and consuming more and more of your days until you cannot do it any more. Either burning out or completing it and swearing to never run another project again.

If we stick at it and keep on chipping away at projects, hopefully we will learn some tools and skills to help us. Eventually, we will experience that one key project that provides significant learning that really steps up our project management skills, which typically isn't in a nice, supportive, steady growth but more of a harsh, extreme roller coaster of an experience!

But, why leave it to hope to gain these skills?

There are tools and tricks and things to be aware of that can transform this experience to one of more enjoyable growth...or at least steady growth! Enabling you to take steady bites out of that sandwich to completing your goal rather than tackling the beast of launching in to a competitive eating contest without any prep and being expected to win while everyone is watching!

So, where am I going with this?

I have been running projects for a while now - the count is in the form of decades rather than the individual years that have trickled by. Over this time, I have certainly learnt a number of core approaches, tools and techniques that certainly make a difference and really do work.

And so, on this journey, I am embarking on one of, if not the most, challenging projects that I have ever undertaken to date.

Some projects are considered difficult simply because of the value of the project, others, because we haven't done this type of work or activity before. What really makes a project complex...?

This particular project will be a tough undertaking. And while this happens to be one that is more personally driven, I thought that I'd take the time to share tips, tricks and key actions to complete on the project journey - all against the backdrop of this toughest project for context!

So, what does make a project complex?

Projects can certainly be technically challenging. But technical aspects can be worked through.

A large budget? Not necessarily - I know of projects that ran in to the multi-millions of dollars but were simple to execute. One involved ordering a piece of equipment, all be it large(!), and getting it installed on a factory floor. Hot tip - the complexity factor tends to rachet up when someone hasn't measured the size of the doors to find them smaller than the piece of equipment that needs to pass through...and this is discovered on the day that it arrives!

Often in projects, we can overlook the "obvious" or simply not consider critical points to make sure that everything will align. Critical points can come in all forms, and may be in the form of a key person having input to gain approval.

A complex project is usually defined by a few key aspects - value, familiarity with the required work, level of associated risk (from a broad perspective initially) and scale of the project. One key aspect that quickly adds complexity to a project is the number of people involved - those directly working on the project but also, how many people will be impacted by the deliverables or while the project is underway.

It doesn't take many people at all to start introducing a lot of complexity in to a project!

Often in running projects, we focus a lot on the documents and working through a process to achieve successful outcomes. A key aspect that is neglected in project management is actively engaging and managing the people involved (or impacted!).

Yes, documents and process are certainly important - always create your audit trail! These also provide key reference material to help guide and communicate what has, is and needs to happen on a project.

But, most importantly, engage with and manage the expectations of the people associated with the project! A project may successfully complete the defined deliverables, but if the people impacted by them do not accept them, they will not use them and gain the intended benefits.

So, my project? What is it and what makes it tough......the toughest one to date?

Well, in this project, the complexity is more in terms of a significant, challenging goal that is certainly quite a stretch! The journey (or implementation of the project), is uncertain with many potential risks and an at risk timeline.

My project is to complete an ultramarathon.

Journey through these blog articles that I will be posting up as the project progresses - I will include key aspects in them to think about and address to increase your chances of successfully completing your project(s).

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