Tackling Tricky Projects

by Elise Stevens | Futureproof Your Career Podcast

In this episode of the podcast, Elise Stevens talks about managing complex projects with Programme Manager Carolyn Pratley.

Carolyn Pratley is a programme manager with over 25 years of experience in executing complicated programmes with strict budget, delivery, customer satisfaction, target and growth requirements. A lot of her experience lies in carrying IT hardware and software projects from inception to completion and normally involved hundreds of people. This experience working with staff and contractors in the public and private sectors means she knows how challenging a ‘simple’ project can be.

Together, Elise Stevens and Carolyn discuss why simple projects aren’t always that easy to deliver on, and how project managers can navigate this problem.

In her own experience, Carolyn notes that when simple projects take on a large scale, the problem and solution might stay the same, but the logistics involved become complex. There are always unforeseen problems, which in her case has involved everything from having to relocate bats from a worksite, to dealing with last minute staff parties that pushed a project back by months.

She believes that some of the problems come from the fact that many project managers come from specific backgrounds like engineering or construction. There’s an assumption that because the industry is familiar, the solution will be easy and quick to execute, when in reality you’re dealing with human factors. These factors are the ones that makes the project more akin to herding dozens of sheep through a single gate, before time runs out.

Points raised in this podcast:

  • Your team might be experienced, but every project they approach they’re approaching for the first time, so be patient.
  • Often projects offer long term value but cause short-term disruptions. This is why motivating and getting employees to help you can be trying and you should be prepared to walk them through it.
  • Not all problems can be anticipated and a project manager needs to be proactive and reactive, using risk management techniques and constantly keeping their finger on the pulse of the risk.
  • It’s important to understand all the project pieces before starting. This includes the circumstances that must be satisfied, who’s needed on site, as well as what tests or applications are needed.
  • Tracking and reporting are essential, but don’t rely on charts to prove something is being implemented

Have questions? Contact Carolyn Pratley on LinkedIn.