Buried In The Details: Again!

There’s a remodel going on in my house, and the general contractor spends so much time actually doing the finish carpentry, that overall management of the remodel project suffers. I can’t get change order costs from him so I know how much money I need to finish the job! He’s making compound cuts on crown molding instead of following up on subcontractor bids.
Sound familiar? How often do we get dragged down into project details, such that we lose sight of making sure the right things get done?
Being a minutiae miner is one of the worst things we do as project managers, and we all do it from time to time.
“But if I don’t get into the project details, the wheels will come off!”
“Those new people need me to show them!”
“I’ve got to get a better coordinator, I’m tired of doing this!”

Or it’s sometimes more insidious than that, – “Our resource loading needs more analysis,” we say, “I’d better get on that now”; “Just one more technical risk meeting this week should do it,” we confide to ourselves.

What is it about the ‘big picture’ that gives us shivers? OR is it that we just aren’t sure what the ‘big picture’ should look like? It’s so much easier to stay grounded in the details: real, concrete, put your hands on it ‘project progress’.

If we want to be what our organizations want us to be, and they ARE paying for the kid’s college tuition, we better back out of the trees and practice looking at the forest. Seeing, really seeing the whole picture takes knowledge, practice and patience. First we have to be involved in all aspects of the project planning process to get all the information we need to build the project picture. We can spend time talking to team members, sharing a vision of what we will accomplish. Talking until that shared vision is clear and the same to all of the team.
Practicing ‘visioning’ the project helps clarify the path to, and the accomplishment of, the goals. Seeing (mentally) the process of the project unfolding several times, over time, with some variations (based on risk assessments) makes it real and probable. The project vision becomes more and more clear.
This is our real job, this is what the organization expects from us: practicing visioning of the project process. Constantly seeking input, re-visioning and making corrections to the vision as implementation proceeds.
Patience in learning how to ‘envision’ the project is important because this is a skill we must develop if we are to be good project leaders. We also need patience with team members’ ability to share this project vision. (Everybody sees things differently in the beginning.) Getting team buy in takes a while, as they overcome their preconceived notions of what the project is about and how to do it.
Come on, play ‘supreme being’ for a change. See the whole project picture. Play it over and over in your mind. See, there it is, you’ve got it. Now roll.

Jim Sloane, Semi-professional Pundit


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