It’s a world of laughter
A world of tears
It’s a world of hopes
And a world of fears
There’s so much that we share
That it’s time we’re aware
It’s a small world after all
Once that song is stuck in your head, it’s hard to get it out. At the start of June, we headed off on a family trip to Disney World. Unlike all our past trips which involved flying, we decided to make this one a good old fashion road trip. So we loaded up the family truckster and headed east. While I am not to a point of saying that every trip should be a road trip, it was a nice change of pace to see parts of the country from 2 feet of the ground instead of 30,000 feet.
Disney World was great – even if the weather was not. We road many a ride, spent some time getting to know some of our newer friends and most importantly got to watch our daughters’ dance teams perform on stage at Disney World. Great memories were made that we will all have for a lifetime.
But since this is not a travel blog, I am going to change gears a little. As we were walking through Fantasyland on our first day at the park headed to the It’s a Small World ride, we passed by a new area of the park that is under construction. The site was surrounded by tall walls and posted on the walls were insightful quotes from Walt Disney. There had to be 40-50 quotes in total and as much as I wanted to read each and every one of them, I did not. I doubt the rest of the family would have thought that was a good use of our time – especially when you consider the cost of tickets to get into the park. But I was able to read a few of them and there were two that really hit home – so much that I quickly snapped pictures of the signs.
The first sign that caught my eye was this one.
It’s a short quote of just three words, but how profound those three words are in the world of business. Once I read that sign, I immediately started thinking about all the projects that I had going on back at work. I know that is a pretty sad thing to think about while on vacation, but when something hits you, you go with it. While I don’t have any projects as big as building an entirely new Fantasyland at the most famous amusement park in the world, they are still important to the success of our company.
I started mentally going through the list of projects asking myself if we had set firm deadlines for each of them. Sadly the answer was “no.” We had way too many projects for which we had not set hard deadlines for completion. We might have said something like “we are going to get that done before the end of the year” or “that will happen in Q3″ we were not consistently setting specific dates. We were setting those dates for some, but not all.
I then starting thinking about how each of those projects were progressing, and in most cases the ones that had well defined deadlines were moving along as planned, while the “we will get it done when we can” projects were idling or making painfully slow progress. It made me mad at myself (not so mad that I didn’t enjoy WDW) for not managing those projects better and set in my mind that when I returned from vacation that things were going to change.
The week after returning from Disney, I met with the rest of the technology services management team and talked about the revelation I had at Disney World. We all agreed (well they said they agreed) that every project needed a deadline and every project needed a defined project manager. If there was a project that did not have a deadline and did not have an “owner” we needed to step back and ask if this was really a project.
To support this effort we also began leveraging features within Microsoft Sharepoint to manage our portfolio of projects and keep track of deadlines and progress on each of our projects. As we populated that portfolio, I was surprised to see that we had over 30 projects in progress, with another 15 in planning stages and another 15 that had been identified but not yet been started. Wow , 60 plus projects – that’s a big number of projects for a team of less than 50 people.
We also changed up the structure of our weekly management calls. Prior to this revelation, our weekly calls were me talking about whatever was on my mind for 10-15 minutes and then opening up “the floor” for updates from the group. Now we still spend 10-15 minutes of me talking about what’s on my mind but we now spend the remaining 15-20 minutes going through our project portfolio and discussing projects that are either at risk (Yellow or Red status) or have target deadlines coming up in the next two weeks. We have only done a couple of calls under this new format, but it feels like we are have more targeted discussions and talking about the things that really matter. Hopefully this translates into better overall execution on all of our projects.
So thanks Walt for having a vision to create Disney World – without it I might not have had this revelation.
And one more thing, I love the Rock-n-Roll roller coaster. Aerosmith, high speed and loops – how could it be anything but awesome.