Project – Detours and new pathways


I wrote about the project I am doing for the Strategic leadership course and how I have decided on a topic. Of course things have changed – I think the most shocking thing that could happen at work is if one day I complete a project that is the same as when I started.

I think this is where the art of project management, or really any type of management, comes into play. A lot of people seem to think that project management is about Gantt charts and budgets, but that isn’t it any more than time tables and cost centres are what school management is about. Or maybe that’s the difference between management and leadership?

It seems to me that some of the difference between leadership and management comes down to how you handle the unexpected. There are lots of options when something new comes along:

  • Panic
  • Ignore it (are these the same?)
  • Minimise the disruption and aim to get back to normal
  • Work around it
  • Embrace it and embed it in your new vision

Several of these are positive, and I certainly don’t want to say that there is a ‘best’ way of doing something – it always depends on the circumstances. But I find the last idea the most exciting. It’s a spin on the old saw that we have opportunities, not problems. It can only be done with a very clear vision of what you are trying to achieve, because you have to ask yourself if a new pathway is going to move you towards that or not. If you don’t, your new and improved project will not achieve what you want, but will meander along ineffectively.

I’m probably getting repetitive on the importance of what rather than how, but this is a good demonstration. I was asked to be a guinea pig for something, which was relatively easy. But in the process and speaking to others, we realised it could be much more. If we’d stuck with how we’d been asked to do it, it would have worked. But by going back to what we were trying to achieve, we made it more effective and gave more control to the people who will be responsible for the work.

After much to-ing and fro-ing, consultation, feedback, change of format, change of program and testing with several examples, we have a visioning template that can walk people who’ve never done it through the process, or let experienced people fill it in quickly and move on. It ensures they hit all the highlights, and automatically pulls the important pieces together and prepares them for the next step. Now it’s ready to be used by other people, and hopefully we’ve bomb proofed it enough that it will do what we want.

It’s the same type of work I was intending to do for my project, but in a different context. Rather than trying to get back to my original plan, I think I’ve achieved something bigger by running with a new opportunity.

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