Project Practitioners > Eating Your Own Cooking

Eating Your Own Cooking

By Matt Glei

Some years back I did a Thanksgiving timeline in Microsoft Project for I had actually developed it for a complicated Thanksgiving one year in a manual form, so I could understand the interplay of resources (burners, oven shelves, outdoor grill, etc.) as well as the need for extensive preparation of the multiple dishes. In transferring it to Microsoft Project, I found that it seemed more complicated than the manual, color-coded timeline I had done by hand. It was more difficult to understand than the original. That task made me think about actually using the tools we use professionally in projects that we do in our private lives. I call that "eating your own cooking."

I have observed that many people, who are well-schooled in various techniques and professionally competent; often don’t think to apply those tools and techniques to their everyday or non-traditional projects.

Imagine that you are a senior construction project manager creating a training course for other, less-experienced project managers in your company. Most immediately jump in and start listing all the areas of PMBOK® that they intend to teach, start designing slides and getting volunteers signed up to teach different sections, and so on.

However, the most important thing they forget is that the development and delivery of the training is, first and foremost, a PROJECT. They would be much more successful if they took a deep breath, gained some perspective, and started work as if this was just another construction project to plan. Start with discussions with the sponsor, understand what the charter and scope statement are, who are the stakeholders, what constraints and resources are present or available, etc. Soon the PM should do some of the more formal plans, or mini-plans, such as Scope, Time, Cost, Quality, Human Resources, Communication, Risk, and Procurement.

Some of these may be very simple for a given project, but I have been surprised to see very experienced project managers NOT think through some of these in running a "develop and deploy the training" type of project. Even sitting down and spending an hour or two walking through the evaluation of these mini-plans can make a big difference in the success of such a project. In addition, if this is training that will be reused in the future, or in another location or part of the company, much of the plan can also be reused. Feedback from completed sessions can be folded back into improvements in content and deployment.

The most important lesson is this: just because a project is NOT one you traditionally perform, doesn’t mean it will not be more successful for using a bit of the old project management lore.

From one old project manager who has made this mistake himself.

-- Matt Glei,

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