The Vision Thing by Chris Rohr

by 05 Dec 2008
What is this vision thing that people speak of? I hear athletes talk about visualizing the winning homerun, then going out and crushing the ball into the outfield bleachers. I hear of the concept of creative visualization, whereby an actor sees himself or herself portraying a challenging role, then successfully acts the part. I don?t think this is the application I mean. One definition of vision found in the dictionary is ?A mental image produced by the imagination.? I believe this to be closer to the truth. My experience has been that from the beginning of a project, I can see the finished product, with exact clarity, as if I am seeing the outcome as already having occurred. My response is to then deconstruct the finished product back in time to the point of origin. The path to completion then unfolds before me. I instantly know if the timeline requires compression or if I have the convenience of slack in the schedule, and can therefore apply a healthy dose of value engineering to the project. My job as project manager has always been easier then most because of this mental picture; this vision, that guides my way. If every loan and every origination is a project to be visualized as I outline in this article, then let me show you how this vision thing can be a valuable tool for success. So from where did this vision thing that I seem to possess come? I?m not sure; I just know that it has been my constant companion throughout my 25-year career as a construction project manager. My hunch is that I have relied upon a powerful belief that I need to see the finished project in my mind?s eye to be successful because I lack formal training as a construction project manager. I purposely went into each project with complete humility regarding my qualifications. I was first to say that I am not an architect, nor an engineer. I was then able to ask those professionals each question that came to mind in terms of trying to form a mental picture of the project at hand. Over time, with more and more successfully completed projects, my questions were fewer, as my initial mental picture became sharper. Now, many years into this process, I have very highly defined clarity from the beginning of a given project. My continual practice of humility and training my mind to see the successful outcome has resulted in a very high degree of project success. The minute that I get cocky and take project success for granted becomes the minute when I get in trouble. Likewise, if I stay on task, the added bonus has been that when an unforeseen obstacle occurs, I can easily separate it from my vision of success and therefore resolve the conflict quickly. My constancy of purpose toward preserving my vision of a successful project keeps me in a proactive mode of conflict resolution. Anticipation of the short list of commonly reoccurring problems creates a daily checklist of items that I can eliminate form my worries. It has become my daily affirmation to pause and define my vision of success. I take stock of the people, materials and project goals, and then compare these known entities to the actual project conditions. I am, therefore, quickly able to shift my focus to the areas requiring a Redundancy Loop. I go back and make sure that the team has not only the tools, but also the advanced warning required to preserve the vision of project success. The project team is kept well informed of the success criteria for the project. I focus on the aspect of the Chaos Theory that states that there is a sensitive dependence upon initial conditions. I reset the initial conditions each day. This results in a constant awareness of how quickly a project can stumble, a daily awareness of not wanting to start off on the wrong foot. My strategy is that as time progresses toward project completion, the project timeline is only as long as the number of days remaining to project completion. The end result is that a long-term project seems less formidable when each passing day it becomes less of a long-term project. Success builds upon success and team motivation grows with the daily realization that the work ahead becomes more manageable as the project vision unfolds. Confidence is a key indicator related to the probability of project success. Making sure that the project team is gaining increased confidence has the effect of making the initial vision become a self-fulfilling prophecy. This is not to say that a project is ever on autopilot. It is, however, one of my strong beliefs that it is the first ten percent and the last ten percent of a project that is most difficult. Therefore, if I thoroughly define the project vision (the first ten percent) and proactively reduce the project timeline to only the number of days remaining in the project (the last ten percent), then the middle eighty percent should unfold relatively problem free. Again, the Chaos Theory and the Redundancy Loop are the principle success drivers related to the middle eighty percent. I place high emphasis upon this because it is rare that a project manager only has one project to focus upon. If I assume that a project manager has multiple projects, those that have multiple start and completion dates, then it becomes obvious how critical it is to manage the first and last ten percent of each project. Doing so allows the project manager to devote the bulk of his time on the projects that are presently either in their first or last ten percent of project timeline. He becomes free to dedicate his time to starting or closing out projects, while his projects residing in their middle eighty percent are able to function properly with a minimum of supervision. In conclusion, embracing my concept of project vision will have a dramatic effect upon project management success. It will also spread the positive effects to all other project team members. This is especially true when it comes to the repeat use of the same project team members on consecutive projects. The learning curve magically flattens as the team becomes more and more cohesive with each completed project. Chris Rohr is a 15 year veteran of the construction industry with over 105 projects managed in 40 states. Rohr has a BA in Finance, an MBA and MBC and teaches construction management on a college level. Rohr may be contacted through Stewart Mednick at 651-895-5122.


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