Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Business learning from walking: 6. All time is not equal

You've seen the plans that show a pleasant linear progress of tasks that are planned to be completed as a constant pace over the duration of the project. We know that plans are not the change process itself but we still tend to think of things happening over time in a nice equal and fair sort of way.

To understand how all time is not equal, take a walk up your nearest steep hill. A mile on the flat might take you 20 minutes to walk. Add in a quarter of a mile uphill and you could end up adding ten minutes to your time to walk a mile. Add in a grassy field with no clearly marked path and a broken stile and a mile could end up forty minutes. Alternatively, add a field of nervous cows and you may run through it, matching an Olympic qualifying time for a mile.

Change projects are no different. While the measurement of months stays the same unfortunately the tasks, even if simple, may end up taking far more time than expected.  I good project management adage is to look at the final plan and add in 30-50% extra time. Then go back and check where this time may be needed.

Timing is not the same as pacing. When walking, it's good to know your own pace - how many steps it takes to cover a certain distance. This is an individual measure. In projects, it's useful to agree as a team the pace for certain tasks and then from that build up the overall timescales.