Shortly after my last post we discovered that Carrie has acid reflux, which caused a few really bad days, and colic, which has caused way too many bad nights. Soothing a screaming baby doesn’t leave much time for posting, unfortunately. She’s napping in her car seat, so I thought I’d finally put these words that have been rattling around in my head to blog while I have the time. (No, I’m not a bad Mommy — she’s just still out cold from a car ride a bit ago.)
I got my Project Management Professional certification almost two years ago and managed projects for quite some time before that. In general you have to balance schedule, scope, cost, and customer expectations in order to complete a project successfully — defined by on time, on budget, and with a satisfied customer. That’s not a perfect formula, unfortunately. Sometimes you end up having to ride a project into the ground because of things that are totally out of your control (management that won’t make decisions, inadequate resources, uncooperative customers, etc). I’ve had some real successes, I’ve had bad management, and I’ve had bad customers too. It happens to everyone — but I digress.
I’ve spent my days for the last few weeks puttering around the house with a baby in tow (in my arms, over my shoulder, in a bouncer, or even strapped to me) and have found myself thinking a lot about managing projects … and babies. I’m finding that being the parent of an infant is a lot more like being a project manager than I ever could have imagined. I fully believe that this experience will enhance my project management abilities, once I can actually get a full night of rest, lol.
One of the most important things I’ve learned during this time is to do the best thing that I can be doing right now. Every couple of minutes I’m asking myself: “What is the best thing that I could do RIGHT NOW?” Why? Well, situations change fast — the baby goes from sleeping to screaming in 3 seconds flat. Maybe now isn’t the best time to finish washing the bottles. Or, Carrie actually lets me put her down for a nap…. this might be the time to mop that yucky kitchen floor. Sometimes the thing I started is no longer the best thing to be doing. Sometimes the best thing for me to do is something frivolous in order to get some “me time.”
Sure, I have a list of things to do a mile long that I try to get done the second Carrie sleeps more than a minute: wash the bottles; check her diaper station supplies; wash her laundry; feed the cats; vacuum the carpets; take out the trash; empty the Diaper Genie; get dinner started. While all of those are very good things and need to be done, sometimes they’re not the BEST thing I could do in those infrequent moments. Last week the “best” thing was to sweep, mop, and vacuum all of the floors — because it had been a while since it had been done and it just made me feel better; more in control of my house. A couple of weeks ago, the best thing was to spend a couple of hours cross-stitching because I hadn’t been able to do that since we were discharged from the hospital. Of course, often the best thing is to just hold Carrie and love her because I don’t have much time left before I go back to work.
So, how does this relate to project management? Sometimes you end up doing something because it’s the next thing on the schedule — but it might not be the best thing you could do in order to meet the project goals. A PM needs to be flexible enough to recognize when a different task would be more worthwhile done now than later (as long as it continues to meet schedule, scope, cost, and customer expectations, blah blah blah). Managing a project isn’t just a suicide march toward a calendar date. You’ve got to constantly look at where you are, analyze what’s going on, and be prepared to refocus your efforts elsewhere when it makes sense. How often should you be evaluating what’s the best thing to do right now? As often as you need to.