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Through the eyes of a project manager

Adeline Teoh ed.
September 10, 2014

Are you a forest person or a tree person? How a broken camera taught me to see the bigger picture.

At some point during my tour of Iceland’s south coast, my camera decided it had had enough. Taking pictures at one too many waterfalls, I had exposed it to too much moisture, which ruined the zoom function. While I could still take landscape pictures, I had to forget about anything that required closer inspection across a canyon.

Of course I was disappointed. Who doesn’t want to capture a photo of a puffin idly perched on a cliff top without the risk of scaring it away? The image I ended up with was two tiny specks on a vast green and grey expanse of Icelandic scenery.

Iceland, puffins
Spot the puffins // Photo: Adeline Teoh

Eventually, however, I learnt to work within the limits of the resources I had. Not only did I quickly figure out which shots would look all right on my camera and take those when possible, I also learnt to put away the lens and enjoy the experience without worrying how it would look in an album. In a broken camera I rediscovered that there was more to the scene outside the viewfinder.

Project management is necessarily about taking care of the details, but too often you can become caught up in a series of minutiae related to compliance, reporting and tracking progress without seeing the bigger picture and marrying the project with the organisation’s ultimate goals.

The tools we use to track and manage the details, whether Gantt charts or software programs, can be a party to this issue. We respond to any unpicking at the seams while forgetting what the whole garment is supposed to look like.

In larger projects you can afford to delegate a team member to inspect the seams for the most part while you view the garment but in smaller projects you play more of both roles and that requires balance. Take a step back and look around the project, what do you see?

How often do you get caught up in the details and forget to look at the bigger picture? How reliant are you on the tools that help you focus on those details?

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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