A New Project is Like the Smell of Fresh Cut Grass

Posted by Brad Egeland

As I sit here at the park with our two three-year-olds and our one-year-old baby I’m also enjoying the smell of freshly mown grass.  That’s a rare thing in Las Vegas because there isn’t much grass.  What grass we do have must be watered year round or it will die because it almost never rains.  I’m getting off subject now, my apologies.

Back to the analogy.  The smell of freshly cut grass is like newness and hope.  New because it’s fresh and hope because the messy long grass is gone and everything looks perfect and even and gives you that feeling that it will stay orderly.

Just as newly cut grass is fresh, each new project we are assigned is a new chance at perfection or at least extreme success.  A fresh customer, a new set of requirements and the hope that they are complete and accurate, and a new team dynamic that is so far without conflict or disorganization.

Of course, we wish we could keep that fresh spring or early summer feeling going forever in our projects, right?  That early utopia type feeling that says I can do all things for all people and still have time to manage my other projects.

I’m not trying to burst anyone’s bubble here, but the obvious reality is that into each project some strife will find its way.  Things will not remain fresh and new.  Requirements will be incomplete.  The customer will be difficult to manage.  Each new team you manage will present you with new challenges and sometimes you’ll want to pull your hair out or scream at the top of your lungs.  And sometimes that fresh new project you were handed will simply go nowhere and die a strange but swift death for reasons way beyond your control.  All you can do is pickup your battered self and have renewed hope again for the next project and so on.

But what about those ‘perfect’ new projects that experience the usual painful challenges, risks, and conflicts that don’t die but that you continue to manage through to completion?  That’s 99%of reality on our projects.  For these, we do the natural.  We follow the processes and methodologies that got us to this point in our project management career, correct?  We establish good communication processes with our team and customer.  We use our project management tool such as Seavus’ Project Viewer and ensure that there is enough planning time up front to truly help the customer establish the project requirements that our team needs to develop the right workable solution for them.  And document, document, document in the form of status reports and resource and budget forecasts to help us stave off as best we can the financial and resource issues that so commonly plague projects and drive them to failure.  We do our best and stay the course till the next new freshly cut project comes along.  And then we do it all again.  Are we crazy or what?

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One Comment to “A New Project is Like the Smell of Fresh Cut Grass”

  • Brad,

    One of the reasons that projects are painful to manage is that regardless of our actions, we may not see others reciprocating in kind. Customers don’t want to hear bad news, even if it is something that we can work out; team members leave at inopportune times and the risk mitigation plan we had (getting another person from the organization) fails us; even detailed requirements that are signed off become items for heated arguments.

    I guess that one of the solutions is to build a cross-functional team that goes from project to project, like military or the Special Forces. You practice and work hard together for an extended period of time and then come to know each other so well that things become smooth enough. But the nature of the project organization, as it is today, does not allow for this bonding to take place.

    Have you seen this type of project team?

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