Over the past few months, I’ve been working with a few different groups of peers and we’ve all been looking at the complexity that we’re currently facing in our daily lives, both in a professional and private capacity.
It’s quite extraordinary when you think about your daily routine, your complex projects, demands on your working life that sometimes we can really struggle to maintain any sort of balance or simplicity.
This article isn’t simply about maintaining a better work /life balance, it’s also about how we can also reduce complexity in our projects and working lives. I’ve recently been working with projects with exceptional complexity. Lots of stakeholders with their own passions and commitments, complex infrastructure and requirements and differing levels of project management maturity.
The question then becomes, as Project Managers how can we reduce the complexity in our projects? My answer is that it’s pretty simple; do not make everything so complicated. Make sure that everyone is clear on the requirements, being transparent with what you need to achieve and then furthermore, ensuring that you’re constantly maintaining a high-level overview and vision for the project and where it is going and what you’re trying to achieve. It sounds very ‘idealistic’ but how does it work in reality? It could come about in several ways:
- Setting baselines and rules at the start of the project encouraging an open environment
- Not making your project management processes overcomplicated or by producing the same information in different formats. Keep it simple! 1 Status Report, 1 plan and 1 communication level.
- Keeping your stakeholder management and engagement with those stakeholders as a key priority.
Looking back at the title of this post and what we’re doing in our projects at the moment, it can sometimes feel like spaghetti. We’re sharing information in different ways, our projects are complex due to the requirements and conflicting priorities or there are no clear processes and plans and everything around managing projects is a bit of mess. It’s spaghetti and spaghetti is messy to eat! Instead, we could try to imagine and visage our projects like lasagne; layers of different elements that all compliment each other and come together to make one simple, beautiful product.
If we look at our personal life and how complex that can be, one thing that I try to do to reduce the complexity is to use some of my project management skills! I prioritise my free time, I plan it and I make sure that I leave time for the important things and those important things can also be doing nothing! A few years ago when I was less strict with myself about my personal time, my free time was like spaghetti. I was flitting around between personal engagements, the gym, spending time with family and there wasn’t any sort of harmony. I was running around like a bee on a spring day and it was just making me more tired! So, what can you do to bring your life into a more lasagne like way?
- Prioritise your activities and what really needs to happen (and that includes rest periods!)
- Take time to look at how much time you ‘realistically’ have available. You may only need 1 hour to do some shopping but if it takes 30 minutes to drive there, you’ve lost an hour just getting there.
- Iteratively look at what you’re doing and seeing where improvements could be made. Could you order your shopping online and get it delivered instead of going to the supermarket?
None of this is a simple activity or a simple thing to achieve. If it was, all of us would be excelling and projects would have a higher success rate than they currently do. It takes practice, discipline and an alignment of different elements to be a full success.