Project Fun?

I would have thought that it’s a bit risky billing a Thursday afternoon two-hour team session as ‘project fun’. The upside, well it was gloriously sunny so, as in school, lessons decanted to the grass outside. In addition, Julia, our organiser had the foresight to supply such an array of cakes that one wag was heard to rename the exercise ‘project bun’. The downside surely, was the subject matter – Hmmm, Project Management.

Perhaps I was doing it wrong in 2008, but PRINCE2 project management with its PID’s and logs was, for me anyway, about as opposite to fun as it’s possible to get. So, on Thursday, I watched as one delegate prepared herself for disappointment and reached for a doughnut.

Depending on where you look project management definitions range from a ‘transient endeavour undertaken to achieve planned objectives’ through to ‘a process to control the implementation of a new initiative’. Dry old stuff eh? Each of the three teams on our session were given scenarios; mine was set the unenviable task (in the real world anyway) of arranging a London trip for 25 school children.

What I witnessed was far from a stodgy discussion about scope, budget, logs and milestones, but instead a free flowing exchange of ideas, with humour and knowledge based upon life experience. Rather than going ‘straight to task’ (we’ve all seen it, give us a problem and we’ll solve it!) the scale of the scenario was rooted out, real risks that the team had experienced first-hand, were traded and project outcomes were settled upon. ‘1. For goodness sake don’t lose anybody, 2. They must learn something and oh, 3. Have a good time’. Sounded to me like a great trip.

Project management is a team sport it seems. Yes of course there is room for a more detailed methodology in delivering complex projects and yes, in these circumstances formal project management skills are essential, and I admit I use them. The opposite is also true. In smaller work based plans there is room to involve those that manage complex tasks everyday without even knowing it. Arranging and delivering a house move for example or if you want really complex, a family holiday.

So, next time there is a project to be delivered think about grabbing the team and wringing out their experiences as part of it. Add a cake, decant to the grass and, like the delegate with the doughnut laughing most of the afternoon, you might even find its fun.

Ian Winslet – Director of Ark