What is a Project? (day 1, post 4)

A project is unique, scheduled, has specifications, resources and there is a structure for managing and doing the project!

“An important piece of project thinking is that you can’t have any project being done cheap, fast and limited resources (money or people).”  If something needs to give, what is it going to be??  Usually time is the resource public libraries can fudge on.

Common elements: unique, finite duration/schedule, specific goal, complexity requires structure & communication, requires resources in addition to normal operations.

Funny running example – closet cleaning.  Library example – moving the large print collection with Laura and two high school students.

Need to quit doing projects ‘out of our back pocket’ and take time to PLAN the project – negotiate for time, help and resources!  Example, what do you have to STOP doing to make time to do the NEW project??  (Yeah, efficiency.  How much time is wasted processing materials that have a shelf life of a few years – books and materials are more like supplies than an ancient manuscript that is chained to the wall.  (so says Mary)  How much time is saved when patrons find and pick up their own holds from the hold shelf?  Every patron knows their own name 😉

A Degree of Uniqueness – projects are full of risk and uncertainty, ambiguity, constant adjustment, foresight and troubleshooting and creative problem solving are constantly needed.  What kind of risk taker are you?  Do you wear a bicycle helmet to ride your exercise bike in the bedroom or would you jump a motorcycle across the Grand Canyon without a helmet?  Find someone who is comfortable with uncertainty in charge of the project.  You want the person who can laugh instead of cry, can stay relaxed and is crazy enough to pull out the imaginary bottle scotch from the bottom drawer and pour everyone a glass after a bad day. 

Finite Duration – There are beginnings and endings, schedules, timelines and completion is expected!  Was your library automation ‘migration’ project like a boat of immigrants migrating in a small boat that might capsize?  Earlier, Mary gave an example of a library automation project where completion never happened, because the manager didn’t determine ahead of time that when the project was 95% complete, it was done and that last 5% of problems should be a NEW project! 

Goal Orientation & Focus – specific results are expected (the books will be moved), staff understands why we are doing the project to begin with (why are we moving the books), there are multilevels of achievement (publically celebrate and acknowledge the mini-achievements along the way), there is cooperation throughout (the shelvers need to know not to reshelve the large print books in the old area), know the goal statement (one sentence goal/mission statement to keep the project on task and help communication), and we need to have objectives to identify and help with the details.

(Would you rather be on a committee or a Task Force?)

Complexity – there are a lot of inter-related activities and ambiguity.  The number of people involved is often ‘far greater’ that you anticipate, with different impressions, different ideas, different visions, different purposes and different priorities (Architect v. Board v. Director).  Take a system approach to operations – holistic management – the library is a living organism, constantly changing, and interconnected.


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