Project management lessons learned from a vacation
February 2, 2013
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After nearly a two month hiatus in blog posts, it is time to jump back on the horse. In that time, I have spent five weeks on vacation and either side of it two and a bit weeks in doing handover and picking the work back again. I thought it would be useful to share lessons I learned from this exercise.
This is the most stressful part of going on a long vacation. I had worried about projects suffering in my absence due to lack of control or guidance. Clarity in decision making based on experience is a key skill of a Project Manager. As many Project Managers do, I still carry my cell phone during short holidays. There is always a fallback if the wheels start to wobble. On such a prolonged vacation overseas I was not about to entertain being on call. I therefore asked for a short term stand-in for my role. I involved in various projects during a two week period to ensure he had sufficient background in the processes we followed and status of the projects to carry them through for five weeks.
This was the first vacation of this length I had taken in nearly five years. Having done the legwork with my stand-in, I was surprisingly relaxed during the holiday. I cannot put my hand on heart and say I never worried. Anyone with a level of responsibility will from time to time worry about events beyond their control that they cannot steer their team through. Most of the incumbent project teams and support teams – sales and management – were still there. Needless to say I enjoyed my time off in the knowledge that with the handover I gave and the available support structure the risk of total cock-up was relatively low.
After the Vacation
On my return I was pleased to see three quarters of the activities were done as I had wanted. Some were left for my return that required a level of experience or authority to carry out. While there were some thing done slightly differently, I can accept that as best effort choices based on information at hand. One particular area was done better than I had expected – breaking development work packages into short sprints. The week following the vacation was spent trying to get back to the rhythm of work and getting a handover.
What the team learned
The team understood the consideration, communication and time it takes to make decisions on project related matters. Many a time some of these challenges are nto visible to the project team (or for management for that matter) and cannot be readily appreciated. The fact that quite a few decisions were deferred and a lot of the decisions required quite a bit of internal discussion gave them an appreciation of challenges I deal with on a daily manner.
What I learned
The biggest learning on my part is that I need to worry less about thing going wrong in my absence. My team is made up of some very capable people and are able to provide good guidance on how projects should be executed. I will probably look to see how I can take advantage of that to get some of them to provide more leadership. From a personal point of view, the vacation has enabled me to recharge my batteries and come back with renewed energy. I will also look to ensure my team gets the same opportunity.
It is good to be back. Keen to hear your learnings from similar experiences.
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