The Work Isn’t Over

Posted by Heather Villa, CMA, MBA, MSM on March 31, 2009 in: Project Management

My friend and her husband are renovating their home. It’s not my idea of a good time but they’re both fairly handy and the results are beautiful. But the one aspect of renovating that they confess great frustration over is the definition of the job being “done”.

They might drywall then tape then plaster then paint over a period of a week or so. Once they’ve applied that last coat of paint, they can stand back and “ooh” and “ahh” over how good the room looks… but that doesn’t mean the job is done! In fact, some might say that painting is the easy part and what is still to come is the real work!

Cleaning brushes, bundling up and discarding the painter’s tape and plastic, reapplying the outlet covers and light fixtures, carrying in the furniture. When you look at that list, you realize that painting SEEMED like the job was over but it was a false end. In fact, the job was only partly complete.

It’s that way in project management, too. You might set a goal – such as a new product rollout or a change implementation – and you work towards that goal. But once you reach the goal, the work is rarely over. In fact, the work might just be getting started!

A new product, for example, might take work to be integrated into your product lineup and catalog. But once that is successful, guess what: You have to manufacture it and you have to sell it.

Or a change implementation might take place in your organization. But once it’s successfully implemented, guess what: Your company is now ready to continue on the track of operating profitably.

This is often one of the overlooked parts of the work of project management, and by the time you reach that point in the project, you might never want to deal with the project again! My friend tells me that she enjoys the painting, but hates the clean-up and the reapplication of outlets and fixtures.

I can’t help her in her renovations, but I can give you some advice if you are managing a project: As much as possible, build those “end game” efforts into your work. You can do that by trying to accomplish early what might normally be held off until the end. Or, you can do that by setting your measurables after that work takes place (instead of before, which is what more commonly happens). And at the very least, remember that they are there. Don’t burn through all of your resources because you think you’re at the end… only to discover that there is still more work to be done.

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