In case of chaos, employ project manager
If you want instant lessons learnt from a series of chaotic projects, look no further than the weeklong global event, GISHWHES (the Greatest International Scavenger Hunt The World Has Ever Seen). The scavenger hunt, a fundraiser for charity Random Acts, asks participants to do everything from serve salad in a soup kitchen to get a photo dressed as The Flash in the Large Hadron Collider tunnel (or any actual, operational particle accelerator).
My team was a mix of new acquaintances (friends of a friend) and random people offered to us by the GISHWHES system to make up the numbers, and we were spread over several cities in three countries: Australia, the USA and Korea. It became immediately apparent that communication, artfully conducted through a private Facebook group and a Google spreadsheet, was going to be paramount to ensure scavenger tasks were allocated to the people best able to do them.
The second consideration was resources. Many team members were college students on break so had acres of time for shenanigans while my Australian friend and I had full-time jobs. However, it meant that we could tackle tasks such as ‘go to work dressed as a robot’ (she did) and I could leverage my network, sending out requests for a CEO to dance to Beyonce, an Oscar winner to have a photo taken wearing a bald cap alongside the trophy, and a university professor to explain in 30 seconds why the telegraph was going to make a comeback (only managed the latter but came close with the first).
Unfortunately we never reached the final stage of enlightenment, which was to appoint a program manager to oversee all the projects, track their progress, monitor lead times, and manage resources across the team’s hunt. I wish we had, because maybe we could have achieved the last item, ‘Make dragon clothes out of kale’, thrown into the ring late in the event.
The lesson here? Even fun needs to be managed. Anyone want to volunteer their services for next year?
(Did we get The Flash into the LHC? Not quite. But one of our team members in New York joined a tour at Cornell University’s particle accelerator and snapped a photo, possibly the only team to achieve that item. And surely that’s worth something?)