Project planning lessons from home renovation

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It’s a little crazy at my house this week. Workers are here doing all manner of renovation. There are big things, like repainting and putting in a new electrical circuit. There are medium things, like replacing a ceiling fan. And there are loads of little things like replacing switch plates that were ever-so-stylish in 1963, the year I graduated from high school and this house was built.

I’ll be happy when this is all done. A side benefit is that I’m relearning important lessons about projects, whether they’re home renovation, writing a book, or taking a trip.

We plan projects when we know the least about them.

You’re human so you can’t know enough or plan carefully enough to allow for everything. That’s just the way it is. As the project unfolds, there will be opportunities and challenges you didn’t realize existed. And there will be setbacks you can’t plan for. I sure didn’t anticipate the neighborhood-wide power outage that sent the painters and electrician home early.

Make sure you know what your big goal is.

Call it a Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) or “the end state” or whatever you choose, but know what you want things to be like when you’re done. My BHAG is to sit in my chair in the den with a glass of wine and to be able to say to myself, “Wow, this is so much better and everything important got done.”

Adjust your little goals as circumstances change.

As circumstance change, you have to be agile. Ask my mother’s favorite question: “What good can we make of this?” to help you find the opportunity hiding in a problem. Then change your little goals while you keep an eye on the BHAG.

Know your decision rules.

Know what’s most important to you and where you’re willing to compromise. You’ll need that to make wise choices in the heat of the moment.

Check your progress from time to time

Stop and evaluate how you’re doing at regular intervals. For this project that interval is daily. From most business projects it’s weekly. That way you catch issues early when it’s easier and less expensive to deal with them.

Boss’s Bottom Line

Put not your trust in planning. Rather, make agility your touchstone.

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Karin Hurt   |   10 May 2018   |   Reply

I really love this list! I never quite thought about it that way, but it’s so true that we know the least about a project when we begin to plan for it.

Wally Bock   |   10 May 2018   |   Reply

Thanks, Karin. I stumbled upon that idea in several places at once. One of the most helpful was Jeff Sutherland’s book, Scrum