New Year Resolution – work with the big picture!

Picture courtesy Michael Henderson from Brisbane (Bardon), Australia [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D

Life may be a bowl of cherries, but projects are much more dynamic!

Reading about the recent APM awards reminded me that managing a successful project isn’t about excelling at any one element, but about keeping all the many elements working together in concert. This reminds me of an act that was once popular on variety shows but seems consigned to history – spinning plates.

As you can see from the video, it’s comparatively easy to get the first few plates spinning, perhaps staffing the core team, roughing out a schedule and first cut of a cost estimate, but as more and more elements are added, the project leader has to keep pulling their attention back from the latest “plate” and make sure that all the other plates keep spinning.

It’s all about the big picture – though there’s a real temptation to get sucked down into details, taking your eye off the big picture leads to plates slowing, wobbling than falling and smashing.

To avoid this, it’s vital to understand the correct “big picture” early – in the Concept stage of its lifecycle – and Systems Thinking is a valuable approach to get that right. Getting the big picture wrong dooms you to endless changes, delays and cost over-runs.

In particular, it’s essential to verify that the proposed solution will satisfy the business outcomes intended as early as possible – there is no point delivering a solution on time and on budget if it’s not fit for purpose!

I once delivered a predictive dialler to the debt recovery team. Sadly (as predicted by one of my team) in the meantime some minor changes to the operating procedures of the team had so improved their performance the dialler delivered little business benefit.

Yes, the devil is in the detail, and these must be bottomed out as soon as possible, but the project leader must keep their eyes on the big picture too. If the Titanic had changes course just 2 minutes earlier, it would have missed the iceberg comfortably.

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