Maybe you can guess what my last 11 months have been like from the title of this post. But being part of a growing firm that is trying to do some new things has meant that I’ve had the opportunity to stick around in one place and make sure everything is put together right. Has it gone as expected? Of course not, but that’s why it’s been so valuable.
When you work on a new project every 4 weeks or 3 projects at a time, flexibility is the key to everything you do. You must instantly adapt to changes and take new information into account on the fly. You use structure as your framework, but it’s a malleable framework.
Working on a project for an extended period requires more rigidity. Too much flexibility introduces long term variability that makes it harder to move through the progress tollgates.
So why is this structure better than the flexibility of shorter projects? The only way you can create a structure with flexibility is to intimately understand the nature of the issues that you might face throughout the project. Think of it as a choose-your-own-adventure novel – that you are speed reading. If you don’t know the options you will encounter, and the consequences of the choices you can make, then you can’t effectively go fast. Speed ultimately comes from experience (assuming quality work and correct answers are desirable).
Over the last 11 months I’ve learned a lesson I had begun my career with but had forgot along the way- there is a lot that I don’t know yet. It’s not that I had stopped learning, it’s that I thought that I had learned how to work flexibly and fast. That I could think 5 moves or more ahead all the time. And I can – but only when I can control the situation or understand all the non-controllable variables.