Project (Task) Management
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Project (Task) Management can be one of the more difficult areas in ones life. Its easy to start building a “tower” for example and not finish because of unforeseen circumstances. A book I read talked about a superb metaphor about project management. I’m sure this author didn’t come up with this on his own, so I will share it.
Imagine that you are on a space station. You are the engineer in charge of operating the space station’s water treatment plant. In the control room there are 4 gauges and dials as controls. They read quality, quantity, time, resources. You may adjust any control from 0% to 100% but if you adjust one it may alter one or more of the other three.
If we increase quantity, then quality may drop. To compensate for drop in quality we can increase either time or resources. That is unless time is already at 100%. Time would be number of hours in a day that the plant is in operation. Resources in this case would be extra filters.
Lets say a meteoroid strikes your space station and knocks out a few filters. To keep quality the same you would need to increase time until the filters are replaced. Or we could reduce quantity possibly until the filters are replaced. This might be possible if for say we had water in reserve.
Next the filters after some use need to be cleaned. Quality may be dropped for short periods of time while one filter is being cleaned without adverse effects. And for certain uses water quality might be dropped even more for a given amount of time, such as wash water for some space station component. This would extend the life of the filters.
Let say, heaven forbid, that half the astronauts die off. Then time can be dropped which would also reduce quantity. So we see here in this example reasons to run the operation in reduced quality, reduced quantity, reduced time and with reduced resources. Not all at the same time usually.
Lets take another example in working a cattle ranch. Ideally with all gauges on 100% your fences will be up and fully mended, cows will be fed, doctored and happy. Hay or corn will be grown, harvested and stored. Sale of cattle or extra hay or feed will pay the farmers living.
Now what might lower resources? The farmer could be injured or get sick. The price of cattle, feed or hay could go down, in which case the farmer might have to pick up side work which would take time away from the cattle operation. With resources down time would also drop.
Quality would then suffer as a result and go down as well. Cows might not be fed or doctored and loose weight. Not as much hay or grain could be produced. This might force the farmer to compensate by reducing quantity, meaning selling cows.
Lets say the cows all have twins one year. Quantity goes up as a matter of production. To keep quality from dropping the farmer must sell off so many cows and calves. Imagine a disease comes along that can’t be doctored and half the cows die. That’s a drop in both quality and quantity. Resources and time might have temporarily increased giving the farmer time for side projects however, such as a construction project.
Consider that if the farmer earned extra income from selling excess hay or feed he can then hire the neighbors kid to help him out. This increases resources. 20 acres of meadow can be developed into pasture with weed control, be fenced, have some feeders put in etc. Now quantity can be increased. At the same time new farm tractor equipment is invented causing time to decrease. Quality won’t suffer as a result of increased quantity. The next year the farmer no longer has excess hay or feed to sell.
If you try you can continue to play these scenarios out in your mind on other types of situations and businesses. After you feel you have the concept then apply them to real projects that you are working on. It doesn’t matter if that project is for survival, career, or for fun. The depressing side is when you begin to understand that based on little or no resources and time your dreams are simply dreams. At that time simply scale down your dreams and redirect your energy to something feasible. For example if you can’t write a book then write an article instead, such as a blog article.