I’m taking a Project management in Education and Training course this semester, and this week’s assignment is to do a project post-mortem on one of my past projects, personal or professional, that was not successful. Most of my projects at work have been successful, and while I have had one recently that has been a great disappointment to me professionally, I am not going to discuss that one, because I have been using it as my real-life example for the weekly discussion posts. I plan on sharing bits and pieces of the work example throughout the semester (it’s almost like a bad soap opera), but today, I am going to share a personal example. And, no, it is not a Pinterest fail because Pinterest was not around then, but one could point the finger at HGTV for this one.
Our master bathroom toilet started to “flush” on its own various times throughout the day. I knew that this was not normal, and needed to be fixed. I am pretty handy, but usually in these situations, I would just call in the expert and write the check, but for some reason, this time around I decided that between my husband and I, we could save some money and DIY it. We went on the internet and found out that it was an issue with the flapper, which could be easily replaced, thus starting our toilet flapper replacement project. We went to Home Depot, got the needed parts, followed the directions, and replaced the flapper. Success, right? Well, we thought so, until a couple of weeks later. My husband, daughter, and I were in the living room, which is directly below our master bathroom, when my daughter asks, “Why is the ceiling wet?” Long story short, our DIY flapper replacement project was not a success – we ended up having to pay a plumber anyway to come out and fix the issue.
So what went wrong? I think that the reason our DIY project was not a success was because we were unfamiliar with plumbing in general. Remember, this was the first time we ever tried a plumbing project (and since then, it has been the last). Yes, we went to Home Depot and got the right equipment, got advice from the salesperson, watched a YouTube video, and read and followed the instructions, but at the end of the day, we were not the right people on this project.
There was not written project plan, but, based on Michael Greer’s (2010) Project post-mortem review questions that I had to review as part of this blog assignment, and the life cycle phases of a project discussed in our course text, a red flag would have gone up during the first phase of the project plan. According to Portny, Mantel, Meredith, Shafer, Sutton, & Kramer (2008), the first phase of the project is known as the conceive phase, which starts with an idea. During this phase, two key questions need to be asked:
- “Can the project be done” (Portny, Mantel, Meredith, Shafer, Sutton, & Kramer, 2008, p. 77)?
- “Should the project be done” (Portny et al., p. 77)?
We thought the project could be done, but we did not have any prior plumbing knowledge, or quite the right tools (I forgot to mention that one – we had to improvise), nor did we fully consider or “plan for uncertainty” (Portny, et al., p. 78). Looking back, we should have realized that this project was not feasible for us, and we should have, as Portny et al suggest, canceled the project because “doing anything else guarantees wasted resources, lost opportunities and frustrated staff” (Portny et al., p. 78). We not only paid for the materials to try the fix ourselves, but ended up having to pay the plumber – plus we lost most of a Saturday afternoon.
Yes, this was a fun example of an unsuccessful project, but it still helps to illustrate the importance of applying the principles of project management to any project. If we would have really taken the time to work through the entire plumbing project by planning a project, and going through the life cycles phases, we would have saved ourselves a lot of frustration.
By the way, I am reminded of this failed project everyday – the stain on the ceiling is still there..
Greer, M. (2010). The project management minimalist: Just enough PM to rock your projects! (Laureate custom ed.). Baltimore: Laureate Education, Inc.
Portny, S. E., Mantel, S. J., Meredith, J. R., Shafer, S. M., Sutton, M. M., & Kramer, B. E. (2008). Project management: Planning, scheduling, and controlling projects. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.