Last week I facilitated a “lessons learned” session as part of wrapping a project that I’ve just completed. We gathered a lot of great feedback we can apply to future projects, and a lot of the positive comments around the management of this project were about flexibility.
For some reason, it brought to mind a scene from the movie Broken Arrow.
“This is battle! And battle is a highly fluid situation. You plan on your contingencies, and I have. You keep your initiative, and I will.”
It’s maybe a bit too dramatic to draw too direct a parallel with what I do (my life is not, in fact, an action movie), but the point is certainly transferable between the worlds of nuclear terrorism and project management.
As a project manager you plan. You plan for everything you can think of, and these are often elaborate plans involving resource and people management, procurement, otherwise writing big cheques and spending somebody else’s money, and many other levels of detail. The most important thing you can plan for though is what you’re going to do when the plan falls apart.
You will deviate from your plan somehow. Hopefully it’s not in too big a way, and it may even be to everybody’s advantage to do so. For my project there was no show-stopping issue, just handful of small ones and a couple of details we didn’t foresee.
The positive feedback about the flexibility of the project and the project team was because we had a plan for our plans falling through.