Project Management Lessons Learned – When Things Don’t Go According to Plan

Project management lessons learned are not foreign to me; after all, this is what I teach to my clients in order to help them improve their time management and productivity. What is a challenge for me, though, is dealing with outside forces that you can’t control…forces that can screw up everything that you’re trying to accomplish. Another challenge for me is that, like all humans, we sometimes can’t see – or don’t want to see – all of the facts when we hit bumps in the road. We’ll keep banging our heads in futility rather than make adjustments or shift mindsets. And this is not productive.

In order to prevent any of this from happening to you, the following are project management lessons learned from a recent endeavor – creating and publishing an audio book for Audible (the largest audio book retailer in the world):

1) Always base your decisions on the most updated knowledge and research.

2) Seek guidance from experts, especially if this type of project is one that you’ve never worked on before.

3) Consider acquiring an accountability partner to help keep you focused and on track.

4) Reflect and reassess at least weekly. If this type of project is one that you’ve never worked on before, consider doing this daily.

5) If other people are relying on the delivery of your finished project, keep them in the loop about your progress.

6) If you encounter setbacks but still deem your project as one that must get finished, don’t be afraid to reschedule by weeks or months if necessary in order to produce quality results.

7) Bring on team members as needed – even if you’d originally planned for this to be a solo project.

 

Here’s the story behind my project management lessons learned:

When I published my first book, Less Stress for Teachers, back in 2011, my intent was to also record an audio book version. But what I discovered during my research is that it would cost me $3500 to $5000 to hire qualified talent (voice artist, editor, sound engineer) who could put together a quality audio book, plus purchase equipment and software. I’d have to sell a heck of a lot of audio books to recover that investment. While I decided to move this project way down my priority list, I never forgot about it because every time I presented a professional development training, a teacher would ask, “Don’t you have an audio book of this?”

My third book, The Inefficiency Assassin, was published in 2016. By this time, the book market had definitely shifted. Ebook sales were nearly equal to paperback book sales, and audio books were climbing right up there. Between the marketplace data and the number of requests that I started receiving, I knew that I needed to record an audio book version, but my brain was still operating under the old research of the process being too expensive. Had I updated my knowledge base on the audio book process and costs, I would’ve started my audio book project about 14 months earlier.

In mid-September of 2017, after meeting an audience member after one of my keynotes who was rather insistent that I needed to have an audio book for all of the folks who didn’t have time to read but could listen to The Inefficiency Assassin while commuting, I made a commitment to her to record an audio book. My plan was to have it ready to go for New Year’s Resolutions season in January of 2018.

I scoured the internet for information, read blogs, watched tutorials – anything to learn more. While all of the information was helpful, I could’ve saved a number of hours by hiring a pro in the audio field to tutor me and discuss all of my options.

This audio book project needed to be completed around my paid work. It’s not like I could take off a month from work to focus on this project. And there was no way that my voice could handle recording eight hours straight. And my back, neck and eyes couldn’t handle editing for eight hours straight, so this project needed to be broken up into chunks.

I mapped out my timeline for when I needed to record. Thanks to purchasing equipment in the prior year and a half for presenting webinars and recording videos, I already had most of the equipment and software that I needed for recording and editing an audio book. By the beginning of November, I was ready to go.

But what I didn’t count on were all of the small details that presented large hiccups.

Next time: What I needed to do when Murphy’s Law hit me – and hit me hard. Talk about some serious project management lesson learned!

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