I was fortunate enough to have a couple of months off work during 2023. This was an opportunity to reset and recharge and get some of those jobs done that I never seemed to get around to – a Jira backlog of my own.
One of those jobs was our whole front garden and driveway. Quite a significant project. After setting out our plans, understanding our as-is and to-be state and everything in-between, we called in the suppliers. We had several deliveries from building suppliers, tons and tons of hardcore, river sand, builder’s sand. Plus, new setts for the extension to the driveway we were planning and wrought iron for the new railings. The third-party suppliers all needed orchestrating, and this is where my day job really came into play.
All in all, myself, Mrs W and my mate Ken spent just over a month putting our change plan into action. Being a Project Manager came in handy. The project required careful planning, timescale consideration, particularly when to place orders for delivery from various builder’s merchants, including when to hire tools and machinery (including the digger – I always wanted to have a go in a digger).
The results were better than we could have hoped for when we started out. A beautifully laid driveway, a new front lawn with the greenest turf I think I’ve ever seen and a garden wall with beautifully crafted railings. Job done. Or so we thought.
THEN IT HAPPENED!
Northern Gas Networks knocked on the door (2 hours before the taxi was due to take us to the airport for 2 weeks of relaxation in the sun) to let us know they were renewing the gas mains on our street, part of a programme in our neighbourhood which meant a lot of activity, a lot of workmen and a fair bit of inconvenience to residents and that in order to ensure the supply to our house remained “safe” they would need to provide new gas pipes UNDER OUR DRIVEWAY(!) as well as a new meter.
After several challenging conversations, a few of which were around project timescales (particularly given our impending departure to sunnier climes) and damage limitation to the newly laid driveway and, to be fair some very professional planning by the Northern Gas Networks Team, the job got underway.
I have to say, the Northern Gas Networks team were professional and courteous, and were led by an impressive site Project Manager. As far as Stakeholder Management goes, he kept his client stakeholder (me) updated day-by-day, what was to be done, and when and what (if anything) they needed from me. As a Project Manager, this is something I really appreciated. Plus, everything happened how and when it had been communicated to me. Eventually (48 hours), the job was done and thankfully, the driveway looks as good as new (which it was only several short weeks ago!). Change Management in the real world.
Fabulous new wider driveway, front lawn, new wall and railings, all planned for, change managed to a project plan and an awesome outcome, but then a Change Request came along which hadn’t been factored in from the outset and had the potential to create significant challenges. In the world of the Project Manager, the request would be assessed to determine its impact (Impact Assessment), along with careful planning to seek to minimise any risks (Risk Assessment and Project Plan changes).
In the case of my driveway, the change request was planned well and in a collaborative way. The work was delayed by Northern Gas Networks until we returned from our holiday, the damage to our driveway was minimal, and was rectified by the conscientious follow-up team at Northern Gas Networks. Best of all, on this occasion, there was no additional cost to the client (me).
Despite some robust and effective project management on my part, there was absolutely no way I could have anticipated the need for Northern Gas Networks to dig up my driveway after a month of hard work and a real team effort in sticking to the project plan (and a lot of cups of tea).
Sometimes, as Project Managers we can anticipate the potential for change during a project, sometimes we can’t. The key for successful Project Management is to be able to handle the challenges which come along by way of change request (or any other project related challenges), plan and execute them successfully, and maintain an excellent delivery experience for our client(s).