Gantting My Teeth

I thought it would be easy.

I’m doing a course online, with the intention of improving my HR skills for work. It was my boss’s idea. One of the first papers I could select was a paper on Project Management, which seemed like a very straightforward thing to cram into my already busy life. Basically my entire career has been project management. I even do (housey stuff) project management in my spare time. I am a project manager. Doing a course in it should be like relearning primary-level mathematics: familiar and very, very easy.

Except, when was the last time you sat down and did long division? Really? Chances are you just grab a calculator or automatically know the answer without having to explain why. It’s the explaining why that’s causing my current struggle.

The first course assignment is due on Thursday. I’ve had about 8 weeks to do it and I’m not quite halfway done. It involves doing a proposal and plan for a real-life project (I picked the site works at our new section). In a way, the assignment itself is a project… but it’s also highlighted my very bad habit of prioritizing urgent tasks and letting the less-urgent tasks sit until the reach an urgent stage. This whole assignment was a less-urgent task until this week… but I also have two conferences to complete before Thursday. No, I don’t thrive on drama – I’ve just been a bit preoccupied with doing my (paid) job and trying to save our mortgage. In fact, people often comment on how calm I am in extreme circumstances. I am well-accustomed to adversity.

Part of the assignment requires that you show your workings via a Gantt chart, risk assessment table, communications strategy, quality control plan, team KPIs, etc. If you don’t know what a Gantt chart is, it’s one of these things:

gantt_2

Now, I know that there are lots and lots of projects (particularly projects with a competition for resources) that require a Gantt chart. However, if you deal with Event Managers on a regular basis (even large-scale Event Managers) you will see them draft one of these approximately never.

The fact is, when you do nothing but project management, and work with people who are all professionals in their field, you generally don’t need to draw them a chart to show them what needs to get done and how long it will take and where the scissor lift needs to be in any given hour. They’ve done this shit a zillion times before. It’s the same reason that you don’t need a risk assessment table, or a communications strategy to describe how you’re going to talk to your team. You just talk, you all understand the brief, and the work gets done. We always do a budget, we always do a daily run-sheet, we might do a room layout if the brief is unusual, and then everyone gets on with the job.

That’s not to say that I’m unfamiliar with the concepts. There have definitely been times when some fastidious (and new) office girl has presented me with a 20-page event plan, Gantt chart, KPIs, media strategy, etc. And I will quietly roll my eyes and wonder how much of the budget she just wasted on filling up paper, simply because she didn’t understand the project. Guaranteed she will also be the one who flips out when the scissor lift gets reassigned to a different room, while I’ll just fix the problem. I do know what long division is, it’s just that mostly it’s a stupid waste of time when you already know how to do division! Here is the problem, and here is the answer, and no I don’t need to explain how I got there so long as the answer is correct.

Except that now I do. And it’s not really that easy.

“Explain how you know how to do your job.” Oh fuck off. I’m busy.

40% is a passing grade, right? Definitely not the way that I would normally manage a project, but at least this is my investment and not somebody else’s money.

Oh God, mortgage… Calm. Calm…

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