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Jason Furness

Operations

What Hobbies Can Tell You About Project Management

When ‘it’ll be fun’ becomes ‘blunderful’

Published: Thursday, June 13, 2019 - 12:02

One of my hobbies is building and flying radio-controlled model aircraft. Not the small foam ones from Kmart but larger 2-m wingspan craft. It is a lot of fun and usually very relaxing.

My birthday was a few months ago, and for the first time I was given a plane. Somehow my family read my mind, and I ended up with exactly what I wanted.

I have not spent a lot of time on this hobby during the last year or so. These days you can buy the aircraft in what they call ARF (almost ready to fly) format where the plane really just needs final assembling, fitting the control gear and motor, and it’s done. The process should take about 4 hours or so. This was the type of plane I was given, and I was really looking forward to spending the day assembling the kit and making it ready to fly the following weekend.

I wanted to fit an electric power setup and started to look through the plane to see if any modifications were required. There were a few mounting holes that had to be relocated; nothing major, I thought.

I popped downstairs to get a few tools and get started. I began to drill some holes when trouble began. Where I wanted things to go interfered with the parts of the plane’s bulkheads. OK, plan B, no problem. Plan B required some different tools, so down the stairs I went on behalf of another set of modifications.

Time to fit the motor: The bolts supplied were too short. After another trot downstairs, I found no suitable bolts on hand. A trip to Bunning’s was fruitless. OK, what else constructive could I do?

I soldered the power connections on the motor and thought I could test out the control system. I needed to assemble a power-charging lead, which took another trip downstairs to get the soldering iron and pieces. While the iron was heating up, I went to find the right-diameter connectors to fit the cable. None of them in the house, either.

That’s about when I started getting annoyed, and I’d already stopped having fun. I was muttering words you shouldn’t say in church and that would have appalled my mother.

What’s the point of all this?

I was committing some of the most basic (but sadly, incredibly common) mistakes made in manufacturing and project management. Realizing this, I made my first sensible move for the day.

I stopped, walked away, and did some thinking.

What were some of my mistakes?

1. I had no clear plan.
2. I had not anticipated problems that could have been foreseen with some planning.
3. Part shortages caused me to change my schedule.
4. Chopping and changing my schedule wasted time, money, and sanity!
5. Chopping and changing led to other mistakes and damage (I left that part of the story out).

I see these same problems far too often in businesses. They eat profits, hurt customers, and cause the people in the business to become frustrated, ineffective, and stressed.

Any endeavor in any business, whether a large corporation or a small startup, is a project.

All projects require a plan.

All plans should lay out a logical sequence of events, possible disruptive events, and risk-mitigating actions, at a minimum. This is how you have a chance to hit budget, meet timing, and deliver the full result of your plan. Project management is not just a timing chart and a good idea.

Discuss

About The Author

Jason Furness’s picture

Jason Furness

Jason Furness, CEO and founder of Manufacturship, is an executive coach who provides lean manufacturing training and lean consulting in a pragmatic, hands-on way that gets clients results in a fast and sustainable manner. Furness oversees the development and delivery of Manufacturship’s curriculum, leads the mentoring of business owners and managers, and sponsors all client projects. During his 20-year career he has led 30 transformation projects for small and medium-sized enterprises. Furness is the co-author of Manufacturing Money: How CEOs Rapidly Lift Profits in Manufacturing (Amazon Digital Services, 2015).