I was driving behind someone the other morning who was putting makeup on while driving. It was clear that she wasn’t paying attention to anything around her – even though her vehicle had wonderful visibility. This brings up an important point regarding visibility. One has to be watchfully engaged in order to effectively negotiate the road.
Another part of visibility is that it needs to be multi-directional. It’s not enough to be looking at what’s in front of you. You also need to pay attention to what is flowing with you and even what’s behind. This 360 degree view is important, for example, if something happens in front of you and you need to take evasive action, you’ll want to know the safest path. Is it ahead of you, to the side, or behind? Only by establishing an active 360 degree view will you know.
And no matter how hard you try, you’ll have blind spots or places that are simply too difficult to sample accurately and often. However, a healthy awareness of your blind spots is crucial as well because it leads towards your awareness and compensation mechanisms.
From a project management perspective, you want to maintain a 360 degree view to your software projects. Most competent project managers keep their eyes on the road ahead. That’s sort of SOP. Gathering progress, mapping it to the plan and determining where things stand. It even leads to detecting issues and corrective action where appropriate.
However, there is more to the project road than that. We also need to pay attention to other projects in process with us – sort of who is to right and left? In case we need to make a lane change or share resources. Often we can have blinders as it relates to other projects—assuming that there is no interaction between the two. While this may be the case, stay vigilant in actually looking for interactions and dependencies. This sort of active dependency management is crucial for good project management. Of course, it will take extra effort to monitor other projects. And you’ll have to establish partnerships across your organization.
Finally, there is a powerful view in your rear view mirror. That is your past. When was the last time you did a project retrospective or lessons learned? Ok, perhaps that does occasionally occur. Now here’s a tougher question. When was the last time you actually did something with the findings? I’m talking about making crisp, finely grained project adjustments based on retrospective results. Much harder to reply isn't it?
Another powerful historical reference point can be gained from your estimates and project actual data. There are trending patterns within it that I’ve found to repeat themselves across organizations. Again, it will cost you for these insights in extra effort and in healthy analysis of the data—carefully avoiding overreaction and micromanagement. But if you can be balanced, there are treasures that can help guide your success.
So when leading your next project take a full look around. A complete look around! You might be surprised at what you see…