A Vacationeer's Guide to Project Management

My wife loves to go on vacations. Actually that’s more of an understatement than anything else. The last vacation we went on we went to Orlando, FL and rented a house there while going to Disney World. It was a lot of fun. So what does vacationing have anything to do with project management? Well, I’ll tell you.  I call myself a technical team lead.  My day usually consists of guiding my team on their current project and coaching them on how to improve themselves. As a lead, one of the things I really care about is knowing how the project we’re working on is coming along. There are a lot of methodologies out there about how to do this, but I want to take a really high level, common sense, approach to this issue and then figure out how the approaches I use work.

Planning a trip and planning a project are almost exactly the same process.  My wife wanted to go to Orlando, so what was the first thing I wanted to know? How long is it going to take to get there.  The same thing is true with projects.  Only, the question you might have may not be “how long”, it could be “how much will you get done in X amount of time?”, but as I’ll explain soon, they’re actually the same question.

Right now my way of planning trips is to just jump on google maps and plot a course between my house and my destination, in this case a rental house in Orlando. In a ridiculously short amount of time google maps will give you not only one route, but multiple possible routes, all of which have total distance and driving time shown for you, and google maps will even pick the one it likes the best for you.  It’s pretty awesome stuff, but it’s not ideal.  Why isn’t it ideal? Well, I should say it actually is ideal.  In fact, it is the ideal timeframe.  When the day comes to head out on your trip, what happens when you hit traffic? Or if the road is closed because of construction? These things slow you down, off of your ideal path. That’s not to say that it’s a waste to plan your map with google maps,  but once you’re on the road you’d be much better off if you could get updated with more info while you travel.  Instant knowledge of how your doing on the road.  Oh, if only there was some device that could do this for us. Flash forward to.. well.. now and go get yourself a GPS.  This guy tells you not only how to get where you’re going, but also how much time you have left on your trip. He’s basically your best guess on the road. He’s not 100% accurate, but he’s the closest thing you’ve got.

Back on project management, we have the same problem. When we start a project we always want to know how it’s going to go, so we plan.  Sure, we plan a little differently, but we end up with the same result.  We plan and come up with an idea of how long we thing it will take us to get there. The interesting part is when your project starts. All my teams have their own GPS system. I use it to see how along they are on their projects. Not only does each time have their own GPS system, but it’s a smart GPS. See, a regular GPS will tell you how much time you have left on your trip if you go at the planned speed. My teams GPS actually figures out what their speed is. And that’s the secret.

So how do you figure that out? It’s all about one simple formula:

distance = rate * time

We’ll get into that on our next post.