“My head is too full of information!” “When I write it all down, I’m too afraid of how much there is to do!” “If I do it myself, I don’t have to explain how to do it.” This is what I hear on my project management coursesat the start and during. At the end of my last course I heard, “It’s good to have a way to have it all out safely.”
“Make it up. Make it happen”
Project management is designing and implementing. That’s the jargon set of words. My dear son summarises it as, “Make it up. Make it happen.” That’s it really. Think of a crafter, say a wood carver, cabinet maker, or clothes maker. The end cupboard or garment is imagined. The crafter then moves on to decide the overall details, gets to grip with materials and processes, stacks all the process in order, figures out how much time it will all take, then gets going. At times, the crafter refers to the original plan as they check over that they did what they planned and what more there is to do. The object was made up by the crafter and the crafter made it happen. Making up projects to improve people’s lives and making those projects happen is just as creative and as grounded in the steps and resources to make them happen as any craft.
We all need a solid foundation
People who end up in project management, particularly in the Third Sector, are frequently creative by nature, inspired as they are to help other people make changes and to fix broken systems. They often fly from one need to another source of help to even more needs to even more actions. It seems that stopping to catch all the threads is too much time, too much work. Yet, stopping to catch it all is how we tie all the inspiration to a solid foundation. The solid foundation is what we return to when we’re exhausted, reminding us as it does, of why we do what we do, and what we had intended to do along the way.
Don’t be intimidated by Gantt charts!
There is a core tool we use in project management, called a Gantt chart. Instead of thinking of it like some mechanical drawing devoid of humanity, think of it as the thread catcher between the inspiring ideas and the actions to bring them to life. It’s a tool, the Gantt. Like any tools, it’s been honed out of experience, and is extraordinarily well designed for purpose. I enjoyed watching last week’s learning group stare with shock, begin to map out their design, move to see the details needed to get it going, then tie those wonderful detail threads into time shapes in a Gantt inside their Project Workbooks. At the end, one said, “Sally will never believe that I’m excited to get on the train and work on my Gantt!!”.
Practical Project Management. Make it up, using tried and tested tools. Make it happen, using creative tools to keep grounded. Breathe. Chaos has a plan.