Seeing is believing

25. 02. 20 John Chapman

Seeing is believing

Does it look like I’m working on a project?

Somerleyton is a village of medieval origin in the English county of Suffolk. The properties are quaint, some with thatched roofs. The village green has an old water pump, and overhanging the pond there is a willow tree. Close by is the river Waveney where there is a mooring for boats, which is conveniently close to the village pub, The Duke’s Head.

Walking through the village becomes an immersive experience of being in rural England. Very little traffic passing down the main street, wooden road signs, traditional English houses to admire, and a general feel of peace and calm.

If you moved to Somerleyton, not only would you be living in a village, everything around you would make you feel like you were living in a village.

Joining the project

We join a project team. This will become, for a period, part of our working life. The project work is interspersed with business as usual activities. There is a design workshop to identify new ways of working. New ideas are discussed. Visual tools assist in the design of new business processes. The next piece of work is prepare for testing. The testing itself is a few weeks away as the configuration needs to be completed, so we return to our desks. Plenty of time to write test scripts goes through our mind.

The challenge

At the outset we have differing objectives. The first is to keep business as usual activities going, getting the daily work done. The second is to work on the project, part of the time, to get the deliverables ready (such as the test scripts) for the next set of project team activities.

What do we see?

The proverb ‘seeing is believing’ means ‘if you see something yourself, you will believe it to exist or be true’ Yet what do we see when we get back to work? It is the same environment, the same people, desks have not changed, the building layout remains as before. Intellectually we tell ourselves that we are working on a project, yet this is not what we see day to day. The organisation may need to deliver changes, yet we don’t see any change. A design session where there was a lot of talking. A few nice diagrams displayed on a screen. The reality is that each day everything looks the same.

Projects and our environment

We should consider the wider environment as part of our project planning. Setup a new office for the team to work in. The location is away from the day-to-day office work.

Put onto the walls project material such as

  • Gantt Charts,
  • Benefit Dependency Charts,
  • Project Plans,
  • Team Hierarchy,
  • As Is and To Be Process flows,
  • Burndown Charts,
  • Milestone dates
  • Clocks with time-zones (for international projects)
  • Communication posters

Arrange regular project progress calls. Encourage dialogue amongst the project team. Organise team-building activities outside of the office.

Even if a separate office is not an option, seek to create a project environment with the look and feel that there is a project underway.

The result?

Instead of having a passive engagement with the project that is interspersed with individual activities, we are immersed in the project experience. As the proverb goes “Seeing is believing”.

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John Chapman

Written by:

John Chapman

Programme Director