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7 Things Recovery Has Taught Me About Project Management
By Christoph Papenfuss

“Only big dreams have the power to move men’s souls.” Marcus Aurelius

Back in December I was diagnosed with cartilage damage in my knee. This is a nasty injury that often results in people not being able to walk without pain let alone do any kind of weight-bearing sport like skiing or running. As a devoted runner and skier, this was really bad news. But luckily, I found an excellent physiotherapist who gave me hope. His advice along with my experience as a project manager has gotten me on a path towards recovery. This journey is reminding me of a few project management principles.

Lessons in Project Management

  1. Set a clear but challenging goal: Physiotherapy can be rough and painful. To stick with it you need a challenging goal. Easy goals won’t motivate you. And make sure that you clearly understand what success will look like. Describe it in many different terms. Simply completing a project plan is not enough. I am determined to ski next winter and to complete a few running races.
  2. Obtain support and buy-in: Projects need strong support from the key stakeholders. I have made sure to get my family on board. It would be very difficult to succeed without their support.

  3. Develop a plan: Recovery is not easy. There are too many variables. I have created a strict plan that keeps me on track with my exercises, PT sessions and Dr visits. It’s too easy to get side-tracked and it’s easy to miss critical steps. Make sure to include milestones that will help you assess risk and that have the potential to motivate you.

  4. Measure your progress: Working towards a big goal can be tough sometimes. I measure my progress daily using a few KPIs. That motivates me and keeps me on track.

  5. Celebrate (frequently): Executing a large project can feel like a series of marathons. Nobody can and wants to endure that. Make sure to celebrate when you reach a certain milestone. That keeps you and the team motivated. I reward myself with carefully planned mini-runs and things like that.

  6. Manage risk: Along with my Dr, physical therapist and some friends, I have collected a bunch of information about risks. Knowing this helps me understand what to do. The other day, I aborted an exercise simply because I felt pain in a certain area. Last year, I would have continued with a ‘no pain no gain’ attitude. I think and hope that this saved me from a serious setback.

  7. Know when to stop: Any project might be flawed. Know when to stop. I used to have a different physio therapist who was nice but clueless. He probably did more damage than good. It was a tough decision. But I completely stopped for a while, re-considered and started up again.

Proper project management is important. But it is also critical not to get too hung up about it. Business Analytics projects tend to require more agile management approaches. But I will write about some horror stories later.

Christoph Papenfuss has been working in the area of Business Analytics and Performance Management for over 14 years. Ten of those years were spent in sunny Silicon Valley where he had the opportunity to work with many of the inspiring High Tech companies. You can read more from Christoph on his blog.

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