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Sweat the Small Stuff

Brsrs I've always appreciated Stephen Covey's example he shares about the big rocks and the small rocks and the sand.  If you have a hefty collection of each and are asked to fill up an aquarium with all of them, unless you start with the big rocks first, then move to the small rocks, and finally fill in with sand, you will not fit everything into the aquarium effectively. 

Then it will be the big rocks (the most important tasks in your life) that will suffer. Brilliant analogy.

In project management, we often remember the big rocks: the tasks on our project plan, the status report, the issues log, team meetings, the deliverables. Those are the only things that make or break a project, correct?

Well, yes and no. Often, the things I see derail project managers are the small rocks like allotting time for WRITING the status report, TRACKING the issues log, HOLDING the meetings, and OBTAINING SIGN-OFF on the deliverables. Each of these seemingly small tasks pale in comparison to sitting down a group of business analysts and programmers to create something big and brilliant. While none of these "small rocks" in and of themselves get you to your final project completion, ignoring them can prevent you from reaching your goal.

Maintaining these small rocks is also a matter of project maturity. The Software Contract Management blog recently shared a piece on scope management and the capability maturing model. Tucked away in one small corner of the article was a critical piece of advice: "Please keep in mind that your responsibility extends to all work on the project, including administrative work, not only the construction" of the software system.

As a project manager, allow time on your plan (10 percent to 25 percent is my general rule) for these "small rock" activities. Ignoring them as inconsequential may prevent you from effectively addressing your "big rocks."

Carpe Factum!

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