When was the last time you had a home project go exactly as planned? Me neither. It’s impossible to plan the perfect project, but there are some easy things you can do before you start which will increase your odds of success.
I learned project management in the belly of the fire running multi-million dollar projects for a large corporation. The interesting thing is the fundamentals of getting a project done are the same no matter how big or how small the project is. So in the years since I left the corporate world I have found many ways to apply my project management skills to get more things done around the house.
These are the six questions I start with every time:
Planning Your Next Home Project
1. What is the scope of the project?
More specifically, what’s IN scope? What do you plan to include in the project?
And, sometimes more importantly, what’s OUT of scope? What do you not plan to include in the project.
How will you decide whether to add something to the project (increase project scope)? If it is under a certain dollar amount? If you can DIY it?
This is key to clearing up project confusion before it starts.
Here’s the kicker: You have to follow the scope definition. If you start going into out of scope territory, your project will almost always cost more or take longer to complete. That’s where the third question is useful. Decide upfront on the ground rules–when you will allow scope to change.
2. Who’s working on the project?
When are they available?
What skills do they have?
When are they unavailable?
The skills question is important, because you must know if you have the right people to help out. You must also know who sucks at certain types of tasks and should help elsewhere.
This is the step that prevents you from getting furious when you expected your hubby to help you hang shelves and he already made plans to go golfing.
3. When do you want the project finished?
How long do you estimate each task in the project will take?
How many people do you have to work on each task?
Can you pay for help or convenience to get some tasks done faster? Do you want to?
Realize there might be a difference between when you want it done and what’s realistic.
If you do your homework to estimate each task, then you’ll be able to create a realistic schedule. Or you’ll know what you need to do to tighten up the timeline, like buying instead of DIYing, hiring extra help, or cutting some things out of the project.
4. What’s the budget?
Have you been saving up or are you working on a shoestring?
Have you done your homework to really estimate what the project will cost? And is your budget enough to get it done?
Can you DIY some tasks to save money? Do you want to?
Realize there might be a difference between what you want to spend and what’s realistic.
If you do your homework to estimate each cost, then you’ll be able to create a realistic budget. Or you’ll know what you need to do to spare your wallet, like DIYing instead of buying, taking the cheaper and much longer shipping option, or cutting some things out of the project.
5. What’s Your Contingency Plan?
What will you do if something goes wrong? If something costs more, takes longer than you expected, or your friend bails on helping you paint?
How much extra money do you have for unforeseen costs?
How much extra time do you have for unforeseen delays?
Who can you call in as a pinch-hitter when things get rough and you need more help?
Every project has risk. Project risks that come true can cause the project to cost more or take more time to complete. No project runs perfectly, but you can improve the outcome if you are prepared for the unexpected.
6. What’s Your Plan B? C? and D?
If something changes, what caused the change?
What does the change mean? You need more time, money, help or all of the above? Do you have the contingency to cover it?
What can you do to eliminate or minimize the change?
What’s the new plan?
We already established that no project goes perfectly. No one finishes with a perfectly executed Plan A. The changes might be small, but you can be sure every project ends on Plan Somewhere-Way-Further-Down-the-Alphabet. And that is okay, if you are prepared for it. Answering all the questions above will help you be ready.
Bonus Question: What Makes Your Project a Success?
If you finish the project under budget?
If you finish the project faster than you planned?
If you got everything you wanted to include done and done well?
Deciding up front what is most important will help you stay focused during the project.
Try this fill-in-the-blank exercise:
Because I ________ this project turned out amazing. (Examples: Because I did it all for under $100, this project turned out amazing. Because I did this together with my daughter, this project turned out amazing. Because I made a realistic schedule and didn’t feel stressed or rushed, this project turned out amazing.)
Remind yourself of your “Because I” statement throughout the project. It’ll keep you pointed in the right direction.
In the middle of a project?