In this issue:
Are you planning a change project, managing your way through a job search, or some other not-totally-deterministic project? Wouldn't it be nice if life went according to plan? You could create a roadmap first, estimate how long things would take to get done, create a project plan, and do them.
How often does it happen that “things happen” on your way to the “perfect plan”? I bet it happens to you and your projects often enough. Welcome to your emergent project.
Can you manage emergent projects? Yes. Can you do it easily? Well, if you allow yourself to be adaptable, you can.
Here are three tips to deal with what life throws at you and your emergent project.
Tip #1: Plan just enough for now.
Assume you can plan for the next week or two. If you are planning a large change project, do not assume you can plan for the next six months—that is way too long. Try to plan for two weeks at a time. If you are planning a job search, I like one-week timeboxes.
Sean, in charge of a large change at his company, told me he developed a roadmap for change that had a rolling wave horizon of three months. “I had a detailed plan of two weeks, which I kept as a rolling wave plan. I always had a detailed plan for two weeks. I updated the roadmap based on what we had accomplished in the previous month.
“This way people could see what was coming, but they knew I was ready to adapt based on the reality of what was going on now. Some people thought I replanned too often, but everyone appreciated the visualness of the roadmap, and the fact that it reflected the reality of our work.”
Tip #2: Plan to replan.
Emergent projects need replanning, maybe even more than regular projects. If you use iterations in your projects, you know about replanning—you replan every iteration.
If you don't already use iterations or flow in your projects, here's what I mean: choose a period of time, say one or two weeks. Plan your project as well as you can for that amount of time. At the end of that time, assess what you have accomplished. Reflect on your process, and see how you have worked. If you want to change how you work, update those changes into your new plan for the next one or two weeks. Repeat.
That assessment is feedback to you on your work. This is especially helpful in a job search, where you are not in charge of the end date on your project. You want to make your emergent project as short as possible.
Tip #3: Be prepared for serendipity.
You already know that an emergent project is full of surprises. What you might not know is that you should be ready for serendipity.
We think of emergent projects as uncomfortable projects. But they can be joyous, growth projects. You might have to reframe your state of mind to think that way. If you do, you might then have moments of “fortuitous happenstance” which is what serendipity means.
One of my early readers for Manage Your Job Search reconnected with an old boss, who introduced him to the person who became his new boss. He did not expect that. He was looking for an introduction to someone else!
Emergent projects are not always comfortable. They are certainly not predictable. You can manage them, if you are open to managing them with adaptable approaches.
Do you want to learn more about managing emergent projects?
I am conducting public workshops in London on March 17, and 21, 2014. On March 17, I'm leading an Introduction to Agile Project Management. On March 21, I'm leading my Manage Your Job Search workshop. See the London Workshops page for more information. I have just five seats left. Sign up now!
Time is running out for signing up for the Influential Agile Leader with Gil Broza and me. We're offering it twice in 2014. You can join us April 8-9, 2014 in Toronto. Or, you can join us May 22-23, 2014 in Edinburgh, Scotland. We have only five spaces left in each workshop.
Are you new to the Pragmatic Manager newsletter? See previous issues.
See my articles page for my articles. If you see one that interests you and you would like me to speak about it, let me know.
© 2014 Johanna Rothman
Tags: adaptable, change, job search, project management, project management tips, replan, serendipity