I think I hit a new record of being a full year late on a project....a YEAR!
I've decided that most of the delay is due to poor time management.
Basically, it's a production machine with many sub-projects, all this stuff
needs to be envisioned, sketched, drawn, built, tested, revised and
installed. A lot is bull work drilling and taping and simple machining.
Some is more involved. No big deal, that's what I do, in addition to
everything else, mostly boring office work. I could probably finish-up in a
week or two if I was on my game and undisturbed. (People tell me I'm
disturbed) Two months ago, I could probably have finished-up in a week or
two if I was on my game and undisturbed. I find it harder and harder to
switch hats and utilize my shop time most productively.
Are there any secrets to managing projects that you will share? I need a
new road map. It was suggested to do the hardest sub-assemblies first and
fill in short times with bull work. I've been told to do the easiest stuff
first, the shortest time stuff first, the longest time stuff first, the most
exciting stuff first....etc. etc. etc.
I have four more major projects on the book and I want to manage them
better...they will make me some serious money! I'm always amazed at some of
the things that you guys do...tell me the secret!
My two cents is to work on it some every day. Maybe some days are
better for design and paper work and research, other days are better for
firing up the power tools. Think about logging your time spent on your
projects every day, something like "1.5 hours designing drive system",
or "45 minutes on trial assembly and fitting". It may be that you are
not putting in enough hours, or spending more time planning than doing.
I suggest that having four projects going on at the same time is
probably too many, if you have a full time job. Focus on one or two of them.
A lot of people also have unrealistic views on how long a project would
take. There may be a human being somewhere who could do the project in
two weeks of steady work. However, that human being may not be you, you
may not have the skills or experience or discipline to do the project in
the most efficient way.
I used to do quite a bit of project management in my engineering job,
but even in a professional environment with very skilled people, we
usually ended up behind schedule, for one reason or another, sometimes
conflicting priorities, sometimes unexpected problems.
A standard project management tool is to have a set of milestones.
Example: End of October, drive system assembled and tested. End of
November, control system wiring complete. End of December, trial run.
Milestones are suspposed to be specific deliverables, not vague things
like "design 50% finished". This way you can tell if you are behind
schedule, etc. But stuff happens, and projects do fall behind schedule,
the trick is to get back on track and not beat yourself up too much
about being behind.
I don't know you, but one of my inlaws is infamous for starting huge
projects and not finishing them. He was refurbishing a house to move
into, and moved into it a year or two later, unfinished. He ran out of
money to buy cabinets, etc. One day I called to talk to his spouse, and
he suddenly went into a speach about how he was only at the old house to
take a short break, etc. But I had not said anything or expressed
surprise that he was at the old house, I did not even care how he spent
his time. Obviously in his mind he should have been at the new house
working on it, so he had to justify to me why he was not doing it,
whether I cared or not. This guy is a loser, and I sure hope that you
don't have as many problems as he does, but sometimes you can learn by
studying the more extreme case, and see little bits of yourself in that
reflection. People do get into patterns of behavior, and you are right
to look for a way to break a pattern of behavior.
I think that many people suffer from project paralysis. The project
looks so large that they don't know where to start, and they worry more
than they work. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
Good luck. Maybe this gives you something to think about.
Tom Gardner wrote:
I just joined another project with a local company. We are trying to estimate
time and cost for design work on a system that has to be prototyped by the end
of December. Problem is that it is very poorly defined. No schematics, little
information about responsibilities, designs or other important stuff such as
available budget. If it weren't so interesting, I would run away from it.
These guys need some serious help and we are apparently the only ones who can
bail them out.
We have to go through the task of making some SWAGs and writing on fog for our
Sure is good to be retired. I thought I was done with this BS.
Mont Vernon, NH
My secret to success is so simple that most people laugh it off, or it
simply goes in one ear and out the other, even if they are paying $125 an
hour for my lecturing them on how to improve their bottom line.
First, you must have a clear vision of what you want to have within a year,
two and three. You must believe this to be possible.
Second - you look at the panorama, the overall landscape of your project and
list clearly identifiable problems. If there is a river you must cross, then
a bridge must be built. If you are to work in Mexico, then Spanish must be
learned. You make these obstacles IMPORTANT on your activities list.
Third, you list everything that must be done, followed by when it can start
but most importantly when it MUST be completed. (The bridge can start
anytime, but it must be completed Oct 10 because that is when the final
assembly is to be delivered and you need to cross the river with that
You put this information into a Gantt chart, a simple line by line time map
for you to use as a reference, reminder and communication tool with those
you work with be they employees, suppliers, customers, friends, kids....
You carry in your shirt pocket a couple of pieces of paper. This month's
calendar with meetings and stuff on the front, and the back with phone
numbers to your principal players. Another blank page upon which you make
notes of things to do, ideas, and reminders, and notes on problems that keep
popping up. These popping up problems will be reviewed when you do potty on
Saturday morning and a Pareto analysis made on the flay - Which two problems
are causing most other problems and what can you do to extinguish them?
Every morning you look at your lists and think of the plan and list the six
most important things that must be accomplished that day for it all to come
together. Learn to delegate the URGENT stuff which are phone calls,
interruptions and stuff that is important to them, but not important to your
plan. This is a crucial test of character which few people can master since
most of us like being good-guys and since everybody knows that if you want
something done really quick, ask a busy person. Lose this!
Whenever you have time, go to
read it bit by bit.
Projects are the spice of life if you learn to master them and not be a
slave to them.
On Fri, 03 Oct 2003 18:29:33 GMT, "Wayne Lundberg"
Wayne, you have it down! Thank you for this. I'm going to
put it up on my office wall...maybe tomorrow. ;)
I'm finally learning that lesson and am starting to get
things done around here.
Just this year I'm letting the answering machine get any
call which comes when I'm focusing on something important.
It really does make a difference. And I avoid a helluva
lot of damned salescritters. That's a Win/Win, wot?
Wow, I never stopped to think of it from that perspective.
People have been doing that to me for too many years.
Hey, it's written by that famous Wayne Lundberg guy. ;)
I had to look up "pareto analysis on the flay", analyze
that you had probably meant "fly", and go from there.
me in to a process I knew about but didn't know the name.
BTW, there are a few glitches in that site. Mixed PDF/HTM
pages, the patent/over40years page is misnamed (no suffix)
so it comes up as ascii+code. Better take a look.
P.S: I really meant that "Thanks!" above. You're quite
enlightened and those of us who get a glimpse of it are
It looks like you are getting a ton of ideas. So I guess I'll chime in.
First of all, understand that by definition "a project has a beginning
and an end". Projects that do not end, are no longer projects, but
are considered "tasks".
After you digest that concept, you must define what is to be included
in the project. This definition of the project is sometimes called the
"scope". Essentially, what is in the field of view. After you understand
what must be accomplished, break the up into measurable, attainable,
chunks. Sometimes called a WBS or Work Breakdown Structure.
The operable word here is "attainable". Don't get so detailed in this
sectionalization that you spend more time trying to tweak this definition,
that you forget that you are supposed to be working. Too many first
line and middle managers I deal with, get mired in the BS that they
Once the project scope and WBS is built, it's a matter of working
your plan, after planning your work. How do you measure how far you
are in the project? Let's say it is a $50,000 project. When you have
spent $25,000 in material and labor costs, you better be 50% complete.
If you have a six month project and a month into it, you've spent $25K,
You are in trouble! Go to
and see how a Project
Management Professional deals with projects.
Project Management is common sense written down, taking into
account for he triple constraints. Time, Money, and Scope. Widen the
scope, and you can count on increasing both time and money. Cut back on
the money, and narrow the scope, plan on adding time. 2 lbs of feathers
weighs the same as 2 lbs of steel.
Jim - PMP