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A reality check for project managers

Adeline Teoh ed.
August 28, 2012

Are you ignoring reality in your project planning? Insert a reality check in your process when you take your project from planning to execution.

I have recently returned from a holiday to Europe and thought I’d share with you a painful lesson I learnt while touring the continent in the gap between planning and execution.

While I’m no frequent flyer, I would certainly class myself as an experienced traveller. This fact, however, didn’t prepare me for some of the events that transpired while zipping around between cities. To avoid wasting precious sightseeing time and to save on accommodation, my partner and I had planned to spend every third night or so sleeping in a couchette berth on an overnight train to our next destination. Anyone who has taken a train in Europe knows the class of carriages there is quite different to your average Australian intercity so we were expecting a reasonably comfortable sleep.

Although this was a brilliant plan in theory, reality intervened. It’s summer in Europe, so the more seasoned European travellers had booked out the sleeping berths in advance, leaving us no choice but to scramble for a seat somewhere, anywhere, we could fit our luggage. Now, I’m pretty good at sleeping on planes, trains and automobiles, but I can tell you it’s a lot harder to do when you’re tightly packed, knee-to-knee, in a car of six Slovaks. Needless to say, this meant a poor night’s rest for both of us, which meant writing off half a day’s touring in favour of a nap the following day. So much for saving time.

It was then I took a reality check. It meant we had to try to reserve a couchette a few days prior to travelling to our next destination or if we couldn’t, reserve a seat instead and book a hotel for the night. We could afford it, after all; we couldn’t afford to lose the time to naps.

Projects often suffer from a similar optimism of planning. It’s easy to think that a motivated project team will get things done in a certain time, or that a client will know exactly what they want by the start date; it’s harder to imagine what project execution might be like if you’re having staff troubles, or if you need to work with a difficult sponsor. What kind of reality check does your project need?

Adeline Teoh ed.
Adeline Teoh is the editor of She has more than a decade of publishing experience in the fields of business and education, and has specialised in writing about project management since 2007.
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