in Improvement & Development, Leading Projects, Leading the Self, Process Improvement

Taking a “Project View” of Improvement and Change Initiatives

Yesterday, over a cup of coffee, my friend asked me about my first book and what was my approach towards writing it. I said that I took “project approach”.

This lead to an immediate realization that everything we do is a project, be it loosing your weight, writing a book, painting your home, getting a degree or managing an improvement initiative. For any effort where you have goals, time line, constraints, dependencies, risks and need of resources to be managed – you have a project on your hand. Learning fundamentals of project management is essential for everybody – irrespective of whether you are a project manager or not.

All successful leaders have been great project managers too – they may not have used the formal project plan or a work breakdown structure – but who says project management is only about these essential formalities. Project management is about having a vision, drawing out a plan, leading (others or ourselves), making progress, tracking the direction, managing dependencies, overcoming constraints and most importantly – delivering results.

Here is a simple method of how you can take a “project view” for things you are working on.

  • Know your goals (Vision): Lets say you want to pursue a certification in your field. Now, that’s a goal – a project for you. Name it as “Project Certification”. It is also very important to know “why” you are pursuing this goal and how will it help you advance in your life/at work/in organization. Create a list of such goals, prioritise them and take top 3 goals as projects you would work on.
  • Categorize all your work under these goals (Work Breakdown): Once you have a project defined, decide on phases/activities involved in achieving this goal. For certification, you can have a phase named “Preparation” with activities like identifying the scope, body of work, spending time learning, special training needed etc. Create such phases (milestones) and have core activities in each phase.
  • Create a list of actions (Plan): Now that you know the activities, draw out a basic plan. Give a tentative timeframe to each activity and you’ll know how much time it will take for you to get certified. Identify the resources you will need to get into action e.g. books, training material etc. You can use MS Excel or Google Spreadsheet to draw out these basic plans. Remember – that which does not get scheduled does not get done!
  • Act on the plan (Execute): Start executing the plan – this is where the rubber meets the road. Work on the activities and keep ticking them in plan as they get done. Enjoy the process of working on these activities without getting overwhelmed by the results.
  • Track these actions (Control): Periodically, track your progress. This will give you an idea of what are additional actions / resources you need.
  • Celebrate (Closure): Once you achieve a phase, celebrate. Give yourself a break, relax, unwind and retrospect. What could you do better in next phase so that results are better.

I consider my blog as a project which has a calendar. Initiatives I undertake at work are all planned (and viewed) as projects. This view is very potent – because it helps me push my own goals forward. You can try it out too.

“But this is all common-sense and discipline!”, you’d say. Well, that is what project management is all about! 🙂

Have a Fantastic Friday!

17 Comments

  1. Tanmay, this post is giving us the discipline and the road line for doing each and every task/work of both personal and Professional life. All 6 points are real true and we can’t miss out any one of them for getting any task done successfully. But in real life sometimes happens that we make out plans and activities and schedule but we never get in Execution phase.. I think this execution phase is too important. we all know these points but hardly following it in day to day task. 🙂 Really inspiring post.

  2. Thanks or this comment.
    I like these both posts also! both are excellent in way they have been expressed.

  3. This is a perfect way to deal with a balanced life, planned career, goal centric approach. This is a real way out to gain suceess in any sphere of life.
    I must say, this is a precious gem like methodology and Thanks a lot Tanmay for sharing this with us.
    Parallel and planned execution of personal projects in life increases the probability of success.

    Regards,
    Jay Chhaya

    • @Jay – Thanks for the affirmation Jay. I am glad you liked the ideas in post. There are many approaches people take when dealing with their initiatives – like ad-hoc execution, going by to-do lists and having a project approach. Project approach helps you deal with risks/dependencies and track the progress. When you measure your work (professional or personal) you gain focus and improve. This approach has always worked for me!

      Best,
      Tanmay

  4. Perfectly perfect….

    I think i can use this steps while working in new project.. and ya i like the way you add “celebrate” part here. Could be a good example for many company who does not understand this very important part.
    Thanks. 🙂

  5. @Ajay – Use these steps in your new project and let me know if it helps. Celebration is important – discipline needs to be rewarded and milestones need to be celebrated.

    We sometimes are too focused on outcomes – and forget to enjoy the journey!

    Best,
    Tanmay

  6. Simply superb!

    I really admire you for the way you look at the things. Breaking down in smaller steps or tasks is the way to simplify things in real life too 🙂

    In very simple way you explained the complete project execution.

    Cheers,
    Hemal

  7. @Hemal – Glad you liked it! Perspective matters when you look at things – I choose simpler perspectives. There is no end to complexification – but simplification is hard and perhaps, something we all should try to achieve in our actions, thoughts and words!

    Thanks for the affirmation!

    Best,
    Tanmay

  8. 😉 Smiling here TV! I agree, we all do it even without naming it. I believe that the greatest mistake people to when they lose themselves in methodologies and planning…
    I do NOT plan, I do stuff. I am doer. And while doing, I am learning and while learning I can understand the language others are stuck with, when they forget to execute!
    😉
    World needs doers and I am grateful I know one example of doer: YOU!
    😉
    Thank you…
    .-= Ivana Sendecka´s last blog ..Super Cool coincidence with Supercool School- =-.

  9. @Ivana – Thanks for expressing yourself. I think methodologies and planning are important, but they should not keep you from “doing”. Execution is the key – and process gives direction to execution. We may have formal processes, or one can have a personal process (most artists do). Their version of process is not visible, but they invariably have a process.

    Doing, learning and unlearning is a constant process.

    Thanks also for those super-kind words – I plan a lot, but then I don’t miss on doing part for sure. Nothing can beat the excitement of “shipping” stuff – that improves things and changes the world for better. In know you can vouch for that! 🙂

    Best,
    Tanmay

  10. I enjoyed this representation on the Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle….with a twist! Celebrate is an important step for both big and small, business or personal, projects. It demonstrates an understanding of the “human side.” If people aren’t rewarded (including ourselves) they burn out and lose interest.

    Thanks for a good post!
    .-= David M. Kasprzak´s last blog ..Rube Goldberg Leadership- Waste and Value =-.

  11. @David – Thanks for the comment David. The idea was to relate project management and PDCA cycle with all personal initiatives for improvement. I have seen some very good project managers who are lousy when managing their personal priorities. This post was to help these people realize that those personal initiatives (like loosing weight or gaining a certification) are projects too, that can be executed as deligently as they execute software projects! Celebration is important – because that gives us energy to persist.

    Glad you liked the post!

    • @Bharat – Thanks Bharat, for the encouragement – I am so glad that you liked it! Keep reading!

      Best,
      Tanmay

  12. Really a superb post..
    Tanmay, the methods you have given are really useful in our daily life when starting any work. There will be certainly a success if we follow the methods in a disciplined way.
    Thanks for this post 🙂

    • @Anil – Thanks for the comment and glad you liked it. Plans are great, but having discipline to act on those plans consistently is the key.

      Cheers!
      Tanmay

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