Why a Work Order Breakdown Structure is Necessary… In Home Improvement Projects!

I was recently engulfed by a swell of home improvement projects. My husband and I generally tackle these projects ourselves. This has gotten more complicated since I started the weekend program, as you can imagine. I usually act as the ‘project manager’ because of my past experience working with my family’s construction company.  I’ll tell you now, I’m not a great project manager – I tend to keep everything stored in my head and with me being so busy with grad school this has complicated things.

We were moving out of our two flat and moving into a single family home. The two flat is a vintage 1920’s building and needs pretty routine upkeep and repairs. To make things a little more complicated, the single family home we bought is a fixer upper. The floors had to be done before we could move in but the ceiling had to be scraped, mudded, sanded, primed and painted before we could do the floors. Once we moved out of the two flat we had to clean up and paint out unit so the upstairs neighbors could move downstairs and then we had to clean up the second floor unit to list it and rent it. As you can see, a long chain of activities was developing!

There are priority jobs and wish list jobs. Without us both being focused on the priority jobs we both were a tending toward wish list jobs and experiencing scope creep!!! We had a couple of To-Do list floating around that we were both checking items off of as we went.

I realize now that, if we had started by making a work break down structure and then creating a project network, things could have been more efficient and smooth. Perhaps it would have been less overwhelming had we taken more time on the front end to map out our tasks! I went back to our To-Do lists and made a partial work breakdown and process map. The hubs agreed that it would have been easier had we done this at the front end.

Upgrade from To-Do Lists!
Upgrade from To-Do Lists!

Since the work break down structure is not a project plan but a list of the deliverables, taking the time to both create the work break down structure and the project process planning is highly advantageous!

There are lots of projects in our future but I don’t think I’ll ever again tackle another project without a written out and communicated on work break down structure!!

The Process!
The Process!

Now, on to the next project!

What other non-work spaces can you use a work breakdown structure and project network?
What mishaps have you had that could have been avoided if you had used a work breakdown structure?


Project Coach

coaching-word-cloud I was curious to learn what truly makes a good project manager. Should they know all the ins-and-outs of the project details?  Should they be the expert in the field?  Do they need to be up to date with the newest PM systems? As I read different articles highlighting the skills of a good project manager I couldn’t help but see that these are all the skills of a good coach.

I love analogies so, in the spirit of baseball season, I’ll reiterate the best tips I found referencing both baseball and project management terminology.

When beginning a project or season it’s important to build the structure and confidence of your team:

  • Help people learn and develop: If anyone of your team is not walking in with all necessary skills, as the PM or coach it’s important you get them up to speed.
  • Delegate step-by-step: Clear direction is need on a project as well as on the field.
  • Focus on people’s strengths: Know your team members’ skill sets and place them accordingly.
  • Be supportive: In both roles you should always know what is going on with your team members, remove obstacles, and support them to reach their goals.
  • Embrace failure: “My ability to achieve all my goals is a direct reflection of my ability to overcome all my failures…It’s ok to fail, but you should never quit” (Marcus Luttrell). A lesson can be learned from every loss on the field or failed project. There is always something to be learned.

Building team collaboration was another central theme. Again, all suggestions are necessary skills of a good coach:

  • Aggregate and adapt: Both a good coach and PM should bring ideas to the table, but also be able to adapt to new developments or situations and weave these into their game plan.
  • Listen first: Successful coaches and PMs have a sense of their people, what they are capable of, and then give them space to achieve those results.
  • Energize: No energy around a project or among a team is a quick road to a loss.
  • Remain open:  At times you’ll need to shuffle the lineup, swap positions on the field, or test out new skill set on a project. Without openness and flexibility, you may not be achieving the best results possible.
  • Be transparent: It’s curial for a good coach and PM to provide clear expectations and constant direct communication.
  • Have fun: Enjoyment builds team spirit, drive and collaboration.
  • Transcend insularity: Collaborating as a unit is the only way to fully achieve success.

Both a good coach and a good PM work to build a solid cohesive team and that produces results. When you build a strong team you create stakeholders in the project. This doesn’t mean that they always ‘win’; it means they move forward together and assist one another to achieve a uniform goal. A good coach guides the outcome without ever playing. A skilled Project manager, “bring[s] all aspects of the project together to produce a successful performance and result”(Haughey). Both are aiming for the good of the team and the best possible outcome.

What do you look for in a good project manager?

What do you strive for to be a good project manager ?

What qualities has the best project manager you’ve ever worked with had?
What qualities have your best coaches had?
Are some of these the same? What are the differences?

Do you think that coaching should be necessary skill of a good project manager?