~ By Brad Egeland
Yes, project management can be fun. Admit it: There are those clients and those projects you've actually enjoyed working with and working on more than others. Not all projects are created equal, and some come with a cool factor in terms of the client, the technology or even the hands-on involvement required by you when you missed that type of interfacing on the project.
For me, it was working on a couple of projects that involved Disney. Another involved a state-of-the-art in-flight entertainment system, and a few dealt with web design for some high profile and cool customers. Of course, as an independent consultant, I have clients that are more interesting and allow more creative freedom than others, and I always enjoy working with them a little more than the others. In addition, there's my Saturday morning craft projects at the hardware store with my kids (see picture with the superhero wooden jets we put together). Those can't be beat, but that's not really the type of project I'm talking about.
So, when we are managing five or six projects at once-or even just two-how do we keep ourselves focused on just the fun one and shove the others to the curb? Well, for one, we like to have an ongoing paycheque and dropping three or four projects for one is never a good career move. Eventually, those other three-or-four project customers are going to notice you've stopped managing their projects, so definitely don't do that. For me, I usually try one or more of these practices. They work for me, but as you read this, please consider your thoughts and how you liven things up or help ensure that activities on your less exciting projects don't fall through the cracks…
Keep plodding along. The exciting project will take care of itself because you want to work on it. But stay involved in the existing and less exciting ones. You can rely a little more heavily on your team on those less exciting projects, if possible-I know I have. However, stay involved and stay in strong communication with the project customer. That goes a long way in letting him or her know you're still 'on it' and he or she is still important.
Best practices-even when you're almost on autopilot on a boring project-sort of get things done by themselves. Go with what you know. Stay the course on all the project meetings, the task delegations, the status reporting, the schedule revisions and the communications, and you'll eventually get to testing and rolling out the end solution. It just might not be as exciting as the other project, but you'll get there.
There are ways to liven up those boring projects. Look for ways to offer innovation-possibly a small change order that might fill a need you can see but the project client hasn't recognised yet. Or maybe you can learn something from the exciting project that you might want to try on one of your existing, less exciting projects. I do that all the time. The project customers on those existing projects appreciate the thought and innovation attempt, and more times than not, it turns into new project work and revenue.
We will often have a situation where our projects are a little out of balance. One really draws us in and the others may become mundane and boring. It happens. But there are ways to make those projects a little more exciting and to see them through to the end…possibly even breathe new life into them.
How about you? Do you have experience on projects where one really drew you in because of the high-profile client, cool technology or whatever? How did you balance things out?