This blog will be published from the middle of a desert in south eastern Spain. I say ‘it will’ because right now I am still in Belgium, completing my last minute planning for a holiday in Spain.
The objective for the holiday is to get away to find some relaxation and inner peace, to live the experience of driving my motorbike through nothingness (or as close as I can get to it in Europe) day after day for ten days. The trip was prepared like any typical project with a scope and milestones etc. and just like other projects, one needs to plan for the inevitable. This is something that I find many managers forget. It can only come out from experience. At the beginning of any project the interim or project manager should sit and consider what ‘inevitables’ they might expect to face.
Right here (on a fast train to Brussels) and right now, I can foresee some inevitables for my holiday. I do not mean the blatantly obvious such as; the need for hotels and meals etc, but more the side effects of the project, such as; at times I may get hopelessly lost, will certainly become overheated, tired and irritable, possibly even bored and most likely sick (headaches, upset stomachs, insect bites, muscle pain etc.). For the medical stuff I have the best contingency plan anyone can have, in that my only travel companion is a fully qualified and highly experienced doctor who just happens to speak very good Spanish.
In business projects it is important to try and anticipate the inevitable and to be sure that only actual unforseens, are just that and not something you could or should have anticipated. For example you should know in advance that there will be moments of extreme anxiety, moments where your client’s happy appreciative face will turn to disappointment or even anger. Your team will become bored (especially when everything is going smoothly) and suppliers will deliver late when they feel that the pressure is easing off. It is these inevitables that are never written down into any plan but yet, if planned for, can make a tremendous difference. (Any parent who has taken young children on a long car journey in the middle of summer will know what planning for the inevitable means).
So now I am busy planning for my inevitables; the hopeless search for a petrol station, a hotel receptionist who has never heard of the name ‘Lovegrove’ and can not remember any booking in my name, or dropping my bike on a remote road somewhere, or possibly a flat tyre. Of course I do not know exactly when and where these things will occur, but they will occur of that I am sure (if not on this holiday, then certainly the next) and when they do I will have a strategy for them. Now I am not suggesting that you can and should plan for everything but because good project managers and interim managers are often very optimistic people they need to take a few ‘sanity checks’ here and there. They need to think ahead and anticipate, without becoming bogged down with contingencies and risk analyses for absolutely everything. Life should be spontaneous, and within this contradiction lies the balance between megalomaniac management and the cool ‘everything’s going to be alright, just chill’ approach. The closer you are to the cool spectrum the more adaptive you can be, but on the other hand, you will need to be adaptive, because the cool approach will ‘ipso facto’ require on the spot constant planning because you will be dealing with the unplanned variances that this type of management brings.
I’ll let you know how it goes! If there is no blog next Monday, it might be that there is one inevitable that I missed….