Protecting Against Project Mythology

Anyone taking on projects great or small during 2019 might consider a lesson from Phidias, the Greek sculptor, painter and architect.  Phidias is best known for his statue of Zeus, the king of the ancient gods.  However, it was his creation of the statues on the frieze of the Parthenon, the temple of the gods in Athens, from which we can draw an important lesson on project planning and management.

Phidias’s bill for his work on the heroic-scale statues was initially declined.  The bursar of Athens said that the statues should have been created in a front-only perspective, instead of Phidias’s 360-degree perspective, because the statues would be placed well above eye level and citizens would see only the front view.  Phidias replied, “The gods will know.” And his bill was paid.

Every project you plan and execute this year, whether a new swimming pool, the replacement of sand bunkers or a clubhouse remodel, will face 360-degree scrutiny.  Many will evaluate the quality of your work. Here are five important steps to help your efforts stand the test of time:

  1. Plan from start to finish. Lay out the process to be used, the materials required and who will be responsible for a successful outcome.  Organize your project team to ensure that each team member understands where he or she will pitch in and be held accountable.  See that your action plan is thorough.  Comprehensive planning anticipates the end result and establishes standards of expectations.  Ensure that the finished quality of your work is excellent.  Quality is remembered long after cost is forgotten.  Plan the post-completion “unveiling” of your results as carefully as you plan the first meeting.
  2. Set realistic schedules. Avoid over-promising and being unnecessarily conservative.  Creating a critical path of the actions required to complete the project is an important key.  Scheduling also requires a complete plan.  Many projects – and the credibility of those responsible for them – are undermined by incomplete or poor scheduling.  Establish a broad understanding of when you will execute in-process measurements and evaluations.  The things that are measured get managed. Get to work and finish ahead of schedule.
  3. Budget thoroughly. The two greatest points on which to brag about a finished project are “complete” and “under budget.”  Ensure that the budget is inclusive of all expenses, including labor, materials and post-project clean-up and finishing work.  Check and double-check unit count, whether pounds, square acres or individual item costs.  Confirm the accuracy of your costs-per-unit measurements.  These two checkpoints – unit-count and unit-pricing – protect the downside of important projects.
  4. Communicate constantly. See that all stakeholders are kept informed of progress and problems – especially the latter.  Because so many people feel invested in key projects, and think their voices should be heard, create a communications plan that includes video updates as well as written reminders and status reports.  Reduce the likelihood that stakeholders are uninformed of progress.  Likewise, update those responsible for completing the project by making sure they receive regular and routine project updates.  It is nice to know that everyone on the team is keeping up their time-sensitive tasks and sharing in the accountability.  Remember that members and regular customers like to be included with project updates.
  5. Celebrate generously. Pass around the credit and share the successful completion of the project.  See that there is plenty of credit to go around.  Recognize those who authorized your work on the project.  Name those who did the work.  Make and distribute photographs of the finished project and those who celebrated with you.  Use follow-up storytelling to identify those who are enjoying the results of the project.  Be inclusive of all who are affected by the project.

You may think that the work you did to complete a project successfully is sometimes ignored or forgotten.  In fact, in these times of tight budgets and 360-degree evaluation, very little is overlooked by management or membership.  Remember the lesson of Phidias: the quality of your work will endure and even if some people do not appreciate your contributions, the gods certainly will.

This piece was authored by GGA Partner Henry DeLozier for Golf Course Industry Magazine.