I’ve led a lot of projects over the years. Some of these have been large-scale corporate projects involving multiple departments and numerous people all working towards one common outcome. Some have been small operational improvements that only involve a handful of people.
A lot goes into project management. There are countless books and methodologies that can help someone learn the best practices for taking a project from idea through completion.
But one thing that I have learned is that there always seems to be a need for balance. We have to balance holding strong to our original objectives and being flexible to learn as we go through the project so we can adjust to changing elements or misguided original assumptions.
If we are too rigid then we might just end up spending time and money to build something that doesn’t actually solve the original problem. If we are too flexible we might just keep changing directions without anything meaningful to show for it.
In life we should also work to find this balance whenever we want to improve something. We may start out wanting to drop a few pounds. But as we go through the steps we will learn more and more about the process of getting healthy. We may ultimately decide getting healthy is more important than just seeing a lower number on the scale.
But we can’t just constantly jump from new idea to new idea. If we do we won’t actually ingrain them in our processes and obtain the value from them.
So how do we balance between the two?
I tend to use a fairly straightforward methodology. I always want to have a general sense of where we are going – what is the end result that we hope to achieve? Then I work to make sure we are constantly making progress.
To me progress is the most important element. We want to be getting closer and closer to that ultimate goal. If we start to feel as though we aren’t getting closer (not making progress) then we should explore a change.
If something comes along that promises a quicker return of the end goal, we can look at the progress we are making and determine if this new approach would increase or decrease the progress we are making.
This approach makes it easy to make sure we aren’t being too rigid and not working towards our goals and also making sure we aren’t being too flakey and jumping from idea to idea without actually building anything meaningful.
In project management this means that it doesn’t matter too much if you choose one project management strategy over another. I’ve worked with Agile teams and traditional waterfall teams. They each have their pros and cons but at the end of the day if you don’t make enough progress then you aren’t going to reach your goal regardless of the project management methodology you choose.
So take the time to see how you can track and measure progress for your personal goals. Then learn to use progress to help guide you towards change or staying the course to be able to maintain the proper balance and give you the best chance at success.