23 March 2015
"Are we nearly there yet?" - that familiar cry from the back seat, and sometimes from the front. The answer may be 'yes', maybe 'no' - but how do we know? blogs John Bowen.
These days when we are on a day out we probably know where we are from our SatNav system and, if you have that set up to do so, it will also tell you whether you are going to arrive on time or not.
At work we don't have SatNav, though, so whether we are looking at the day's work or a project we need to have something else to keep track of where we are.
In earlier times on the roads we had milestones to tell us how far it was to the next big place and in time these were replaced by the road signs we still have today. Even if you have little or no skill in navigation you can still monitor your progress towards your destination.
In work terms time is still there as a finite factor, but distance translates to tasks and we should be aware of how much we have to get done by whatever deadlines are imposed. When you are looking at what you need to do in a day this isn't too hard, but when you look at projects where there are weeks of time and several people involved it gets more complex.
Many projects are doomed to failure because there is no pre-planning in the decision-making process. Instead, there is just an aim to do something by a set date with no consideration of what is involved, nor about how long those tasks will take, let alone where the resource is coming from.
When we plan a journey if we think about where we are going, time of departure or arrival, method of travel and so on, then we do have a realistic chance of getting to the right place on time. However, if we set off clueless, anything might happen.
Projects are like journeys; if you plan your route and have milestones you can keep on track. You know where you are and whether or not you need to recover lost time and if you have milestones then you can incentivise your team to hit those goals.
Milestones don't need to be sophisticated. The original milestones were just that - lumps of stone. But they did have one advantage over the modern road sign because they also told you how far you'd come. Knowing how far you have to go is important, but so is the sense of achievement that comes with progress; it motivates the team.
If you have a plan that everyone understands and sees the part that they have to play in it, then you won't hear that plaintive voice asking whether we nearly there because they'll not only know, they'll be playing their part in making sure that you get there on time.
John Bowen is an FM consultant