As I recently learned through experience, building a new log cabin home is both a frustrating and rewarding experience. Pulling together builders and contractors to complete their work on time and on a budget was a challenge that closely resembled my work in managing marketing projects for clients at my firm.
At the same time, I learned a lot about the process of home building that, in turn, made me a better project manager on the job.
Doing Things in the Right Order
Home building is a process that is best completed in steps. You can’t add the plumbing or the HVAC systems before the framework for the house is in place, for instance, and it’s not a good idea to finish the bathroom before you add a roof.
The same thing is true in project management—certain essential tasks must be completed before moving on to others. It’s important not to skip steps or cut corners, even when you’re on a tight deadline.
Building a Foundation
Actually, one of the first steps in home construction is building a solid foundation on which the cabin can be built. Without proper site preparation and foundation construction, the entire structure would collapse.
In project management, this “foundation” includes defining clear objectives and goals for the project before beginning. Formalizing these plans puts everyone on the same page right at the outset. I’ve worked on some projects without such a foundation, and they usually ended up over budget and off schedule because everyone had different ideas for how to proceed.
The Importance of Teamwork
My log home construction project required the expertise of many different people, from electricians to carpenters, all of whom had to work together and respect each other. In the projects I manage at work, the same thing is true.
There are people from a variety of different backgrounds who must come together to make the project run smoothly. There’s no room for self-aggrandizement or egos either in construction or project management.
It takes commitment to the project and a determination to make things work to get things done on a deadline. During my log cabin home construction, I was the one who truly cared about getting the home built on my timetable, and I was the one who had to hold contractors to commitments. In project management, my role is much the same. I am the one who has to care enough to make sure that things are completed on time.
I certainly don’t have the skills to build a new cabin by myself, so it was easy to delegate those responsibilities to the experts. In my profession, however, I come from a background in the industry, and I find it more difficult to delegate sometimes.
Spreading the workarounds one way to ensure that things remain on schedule, however, and it also prevents you as manager from getting worn out.
I wasn’t satisfied with my new home until I was sure that even the smallest details had not been overlooked. As a project manager, it’s my job to make sure that the same thing is true for my clients—the details of a project cannot be ignored.
My brief experience with home construction caused me to reflect a lot about my everyday experiences with a project manager. I am in the process of taking these lessons and putting them to good use in my profession.