Project Smart ~ Exploring trends and developments in project management today

Calendar icon
Adobe PDF icon

Project Management Is Like a Box of Chocolates

~ By Brad Egeland

An assortment of chocolate truffles and pralines in a box

In the movie Forrest Gump, the main character played by Tom Hanks tells a lady who is sitting on the busy stop bench with him that his momma always said that life was like a box of chocolates…you never know what you're going to get.

This came to mind to me today while dealing with a surprise issue on a project…how a project is also like a box of chocolates. We head into each project engagement with certain expectations. We have the statement of work, we've created a project schedule and we think we know what is going to happen next at every turn. In truth though, reality is often much different than that…isn't it? A project is more like a box of chocolates. We don't often know what we're going to get.

So when we are slammed with these unknowns - as we are on nearly every project we ever manage - how do we deal with them? How do we effectively react, respond, resolve, and move forward?

Plan First

Well, what we are really talking about here are issues and risks, aren't we? At least if we had planned for risks at the beginning of the project, we would be calling them risks. They are only really 'surprises' if we didn't effectively perform proper risk identification and risk management from the outset of the engagement.

Lets just consider it a lesson learned for our next project. Plan for risk - and our project won't end up being so much like a box of chocolates.

React and Resolve

We have these issues and surprises and unknowns that have come up in our project that should have otherwise been potential risks that we were already watching for in a more perfect project world. But we didn't. Now what do we do?

We react and respond and try to resolve. And how do we do that? We involve our team first - unless it is absolutely critical that the project customer be involved right away to speed up the decision and response process. I'm a proponent of being very open and honest with the project client. It is, after all, their project and their money. But I also believe that it is much better for the project and the client if you can bring one or two suggested resolution scenarios to the customer when you bring the problem to them…assuming you have the luxury of some team planning time to spend on this effort. Then, let the customer help you decide on the best course of action to implement.

Move On

Finally, implement and move on. And by move on I seriously mean acknowledge the fact that being hit with the unknowns doesn't feel good, can kill your project, and just ends up being a time and budget waster. It's better to identify these potential issues as risks and plan for them….so stop for a few hours or a day or two and perform risk identification no matter where you are right now on that project. And then start tracking these potential problems and be ready to respond more efficiently next time.

Summary

We will almost always get slammed by the unexpected somewhere along the way toward successful completion of a project engagement. Why? Because project management is like a box of chocolates. There will always be these unknowns and we can't avoid them. But by performing proper risk management from the outset, we can certainly minimise our surprise and we can also greatly minimise - and in some instances - completely eliminate - their impact.


Comments

Be the first to comment on this article.

Add a comment



(never displayed)



 
2000
How many letters are in the word four?
Notify me of new comments via email.
Remember my form inputs on this computer.

So You Want to Be a Project Manager

Businessman smiling with hands together

Not sure what skills it takes to become a Project Manager? This article lists the six key skills required to be a successful project manager.

Project Planning a Step by Step Guide

Businessman finding the solution to a maze

The key to a successful project is in the planning. Creating a project plan is the first thing you should do when undertaking any kind of project.

Resolving Project Team Conflicts

Two women having an argument in an office

Conflicts on project teams are a fact of life! Only on rare occasions do conflicts not arise. As project manager you must manage these conflicts.

72 Project Management Tips

Hand holding a key with success written on the fob

Here are 72 project management tips designed to help you lead your projects with skill, authority and grace.

PROJECT SMART is the project management resource that helps managers at all levels improve their performance. We provide an important knowledge base for those involved in managing projects of all kinds. With weekly exclusive updates, we keep you in touch with the latest project management thinking.

WE ARE CONNECTED ~ Follow us on social media to get regular updates and opinion on what's happening in the world of project management.


Latest Comments

Steve commented on…
Work Breakdown Structure 101
- Sun 26 February 4:45pm

Aimee Windmiller-Wood commented on…
Top 10 Qualities of a Project Manager
- Thu 23 February 5:06am

Liam commented on…
High Anxiety: Managing Projects With Your Pants Down
- Fri 17 February 9:27pm

Latest tweets

General Project Management • Any good recruitment agency for contract PM work? https://t.co/qMY7Vy0GSV #projectsmart #pmot about 4 hours ago

General Project Management • How do you track who from your human resources have related skills… https://t.co/eGOIRfqAD3 #projectsmart #pmot about 4 hours ago

Six Time Management Tips for Project Managers - Infographic https://t.co/GUNvcEohK7 #projectsmart #pm #pmot about 1 day ago