How Changing a Flat Tire Made Me a Better Project Manager

Project Managers are organized in everything they do, right? Well, I can say that I’m not.

And when I was attempting to change a tire on our full-sized 12 passenger van… I learned that I’m even less organized than I thought. My little kids were helping… so at least that aspect was fun.

The worst part? Everything else. I hate redoing work more than just about anything else. And I’ve been an application developer and a project manager long enough to know that rework usually comes from poor or incomplete planning/communication. I try to avoid both, but in the case of my flat tire, I failed.

What should have taken me 30+ minutes with some advanced oversight and planning, took me about four hours and a lot of unnecessary pain, sweat, and aggravation.

Why? Because…

  • I didn’t have the right jack (rework).
  • I didn’t prop the jack that I did have properly
    in order to make sure that the van would be far enough off the ground to actually get the flat tire off and the spare on (rework).
  • I once again didn’t have the second jack propped far enough off the ground to get the tires off and on (rework).
  • I didn’t have all the tools set out and available prior to starting the whole job (extra work due to starting before I was really ready).

If I’d had my project manager hat on, I would have gone about it all differently. I was stubborn … and I was not planning wisely or planning at all.

The end result? Far too much rework and extra effort … and when you are talking about jacking a big 12-passenger van with a raised roof up and down three times, that’s too much rework. And later I realized that my very nice retired neighbor who rebuilds cars in his custom garage on his lot probably has a big hydraulic jack. Then I really understood how poorly I planned this out.

The moral to my story is this… if we don’t pre-plan well enough, we can end up wasting:

  • Our own time
  • Our project team members’ time
  • Our customer’s time

And all of that equals wasted money.

Thankfully, in my flat tire project, I didn’t end up having to spend more physical money. But if you account for how much my own time is worth, then I lost money. But if that had been a project I had sourced out with four $150/hour resources working on it – even the extra, say, three hours would have resulted in $150/hour x 3 hours x 4 project team members = $1,800 of extra time/dollars and that’s just one task. If you end up being a poor planner throughout a project you can see where a couple thousand dollars can easily become $100,000 and a failed project … fast.

Summary / Call for Input

Plan, plan, plan and plan some more.

I knew going into my project that I needed to plan. I let other things get in the way of that … for me this time it was the fun of getting my little ones involved and starting before planning.

Sometimes this happens when we let senior management push us into starting a project before we’ve properly planned for it so they can show progress and results. Sometimes it’s a project client pushing us to skip some planning and get started in the name of saving money.

It doesn’t work that way 9 times out 10 though, does it? Unless everything happens flawlessly, poor planning will usually end up costing us in the long run.

Readers, can you relive an incident – personal or professional – where poor planning or a lack of planning cost you time and money … and frustration? Please share and discuss.

Brad Egeland
Brad Egeland

Noteworthy accomplishments:
*20 year provider of successful technical project management leadership for clients across nearly every industry imaginable
*Author of more than 4,000 expert professional project management and business strategy articles, eBooks and videos over the past decade
*Articles/professional content receives over 40,000 page views monthly
*Named #1 in the 100 Most Inspiring People in Project Management
*Named a Top 10 Project Management Influencer to Follow in 2016
*The most read author of expert project management content on Project Times/BA Times for 2015
*Named most prolific provider of project management content over the past 5 years
*Noted for successful project management and financial oversight for $50 million Dept. of Education financial contract/program
*Chosen by the Dept of Defense as a subject matter expert (SME) to help select IWMS software provider for the largest IWMS implementation ever awarded

Articles: 179