When a golf professional hits a monster drive it looks very impressive and draws “Oohs!” and “Aahs!” from the crowd. However golf pros know that excellence at the short game, especially putting, is what wins tournaments.
For those of us who don’t make our livings on the links, when we visit a driving range, it is much more entertaining to pull out our long clubs and hit a bucket of balls than it is to put in the time to practice chipping or putting even though we know that focusing on the latter will dramatically increase our odds of achieving lower scores. After all, for the average weekend golfer, tee shots will represent fewer than 20% of their total strokes in a round, whereas shots from within a hundred yards could account for as much as half.
When we are assigned a new project we all look forward to nailing that pitch to the executives, getting collective signoff on project baselines or the euphoria that comes from a seamless go live. But such moments represent just a small fraction of the time we spend managing our projects. It’s what we do in between these milestones that really matters.
So what are some of the less spectacular project management activities which we should not neglect?
Vigilance in ensuring that risk information & responses accurately reflect current levels of uncertainty doesn’t seem like a particularly thrilling activity.
But on any initiative of even moderate complexity, it is as relevant to the project’s success as the pre-round analysis done by caddies who do a detailed walkthrough of a course in advance of a tournament, identifying those slight idiosyncrasies which could impact their golfers.
Interest, influence and impact don’t remain static.
While it might seem a waste of effort to regularly cycle back to all key stakeholder groups, ignoring one or more stakeholders could result in a neutral observer becoming a powerful voice of dissent.
It’s easy to recognize the team or individual performers when a major project milestone has been achieved. But there is an oft quoted statistic which says that engagement begins to wane if someone goes seven days without being recognized. This is one of the secondary benefits of an iterative or agile approach to managing projects – with shorter delivery cycles, more frequent recognition can occur.
Plans are useless but planning is indispensable
Once cost or time baselines have been approved, there might not be as much scrutiny or positive reinforcement received for keeping action & issue logs, financial forecasts or project schedules up-to-date. Neglecting to refresh these plans increases the complexity of communicating what lies ahead, and can make change impact analysis as accurate as soothsaying.
In project management as in golf, the short game is critical – drive for show, putt for dough!