Here’s how project management can be natural and exciting

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Here’s how project management can be natural and exciting

Engineering Insights

Do you remember that feeling when you can hardly wait to finalize that first-rate project and see your ideas coming to fruition?

We’ve proved time and again we can successfully handle lengthy and complex projects at work — so why not do the same when it comes to our own personal projects?

You might think that a personal project that’s a few weeks or months-long will be too demanding to manage outside the professional context. It happens to us all, no matter how passionate we are about something, as some projects are just too worn down to keep us focused all the way to the finish line. It’s just human nature! And like everything else in life, projects have exciting parts and burdensome risky factors we need to overcome.

But what about applying our professional knowledge to make them happen faster and be more enjoyable? In theory, such an approach would bring us more satisfaction and less stress.

I always say the mindset is a key element to success. In this regard, projects are no exception, — therefore, the right mindset will contribute to project accomplishments.

Most of the time the pursuit of an idea becomes fuzzier along the way. So, besides the mindset, we always need a plan to follow and a way to mitigate the risks. Keep in mind that just having an idea and the knowledge to execute it is not enough to make the difference.

Any project has some clear objectives to reach and some specific constraints that are bound to. The most important aspect we need to consider is to come up with a plan or a solution to handle the constraints in such a way we can get to those objectives. This applies so often in our day-to-day lives, and most of the time we don’t even realize it.

Here’s an interesting case study — my automated irrigation system

Let me tell you a story about a fulfilling project I worked on last summer and how the planning felt so natural.

I have always dreamed of an intelligent house but it didn’t seem very easy to accomplish. Nowadays, at least some degree of automation can be achieved on a lower budget, so I decided to try it myself. There is nothing more motivating than the real need.

As I was mentioning before, two of the most important things are planning and your mindset. The first thing we need is to anchor those objectives in reality, identify that urging need and bind the project objectives based on it.

I have a garden that is not too far but not that close either to where I live and work, and my real NEED is to water my dear trees and vegetables while I’m away during those hot summer days. The OBJECTIVE is clear — be able to remotely control an irrigation system.

But having the objective is not enough. We also need a PLAN that covers all the important aspects of our project:

  • Identify your supporters — everyone involved and interested — and start collaborating as soon as possible. In this specific case, the supporters were me, my wife, my father, some friends, and my neighbor who provided me with some tools and pieces of advice
  • Keep in mind that every project is about people, the team and external influencers, your users, your clients or customers, and subsequently their needs
  • Know your supporters — this way you can easily pin down their specific needs and requirements

General objectives set at the beginning became well-defined functions I needed to implement, special gear I needed to buy, tools, and so on. I also took into consideration all the limitations I could think of:

  • Not disturbing my neighbors by digging for pipes or executing other garden errands
  • The proper time to add the irrigation hose
  • Place where I could get my materials for my electronic circuits and guidelines
  • Programming skills I needed to get things done
  • How to integrate the electronic circuit with the hydraulic system and the remote controlling software
  • Time and cost — availability of my team, myself included, and how much money to spend
  • Unforeseen events — these may have a destructive effect on our projects or at least can dry our resources and motivation during our struggle to find workarounds

The summer was about to kick off soon so I didn’t have much time to squander. Moreover, I was also on a shoestring budget.

There are always risks — time and money are the most important ones and thus your ultimate consideration. Be realistic about what you want to achieve and always be prepared to adapt to change because the only constant in life is changes. Those hot summer days were coming and I needed to act fast.

And it finally started…

According to the plan, the project commenced at the beginning of March and ended in June, which meant I had full 4 months to accomplish the MVP. During the wintertime, I had done some research to make sure the technical solution would be viable and all the prerequisites could be met.

I purchased the electronic equipment from a local supplier, selecting only products in stock to avoid delays. Having the hardware, I was able to start the system assembling and software programming.

For all the hydraulic equipment acquisition I worked with local retailers so I could get professional advice face-to-face since my knowledge on the topic was limited. The work in the field required assembling my team. We did the digging in April and by the end of May, I was able to use the irrigation system manually. By the middle of June the first version of the hardware-software system was tested successfully and by the end of the month, I made the first release.

Besides my detailed and careful planning, another element that helped me deliver successfully my project was the mindset.

Think out of the box, always be open to alternatives, focus on delivery, be passionate and eager to find new ways, keep up to date with technology and motivate your team at all times. It may seem like a cliched combination of bumper stickers — but when you embrace all these values, everything falls into place.

As for my project, all the team members had little to no experience in what was needed to be done. Our mindset was to do whatever was necessary to accomplish the established goal. Our motivation was to learn new things, wrestle with some challenging tasks and ultimately rejoice in creating something really useful.

It was a thrilling and interesting experience!

So, what’s to be learned from all this?

If you can, set the project goal your common goal, make everyone in the team believe in it, always work together, and be flexible to keep the fun and collaboration spirit alive. Just imagine how great it would be to infuse this passion into your projects at work and how great everybody working on the project would feel.

That being said, keep in mind that “human resource” means people like you and me, with all their aspirations, needs, limitations, beliefs, cultural background, creative minds, fears and courage, families, and friends.

Things can get complicated when we need to join efforts to accomplish an objective that we don’t really believe in because most of the time it’s not our own. Project management is all about a standard process to follow in order to ensure collaboration and handle all important aspects that can influence a project through creative and analytical methods. This gives its art-science dual nature.

Stay tuned for more tremendous PMO insights and do not hesitate to contact us if you need someone to deliver a project with the same passion and dedication as if it were their own — be it a garden or a high-scale eCommerce platform!

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