So you’re having a project?


So you’ve found out you are expecting your first project – congratulations!

Bringing a new project into the world is not something that everyone gets the chance to do, and most who do have fears and worries about how it will turn out. Will I make a mistake? What will others think of it? And how will it affect my relationships with others?

All of this is entirely natural and to be expected. Initiating, developing, delivering and evaluating a project is a complex process, although if you spend some time thinking it through in advance and reacting as it grows you will find that complex needn’t mean it becomes complicated.

There are a thousand books out there advising how you should go about nurturing and growing your project to ensure it is all it can be, and that you too have grown as a result of your experiences. Rather than repeat this advice in its entirety, here are some of the things any project parent should consider.

Project conception

Here’s a fact that few talk about: Conception is not always straightforward. You might look around you at others who seemingly show off their bouncing new project ideas every other week, appearing to have no difficulties whilst you struggle and over think your way to a stand still.

Project ideas sometimes appear out of thin air, but more often than not they are the result of serious preparation and planning. Bringing the right people into the room is the first place to start, as it often takes more than one person to conceive.

These groups should plan out how they can take the tiny sparks of projects which exist in every one of us, bring them all out and stir them around a bit before seeing which (if any) will take hold and grow into an embryonic project. At this point more is better, as there will be a significant rate of non-growth for reasons outside of your control: if you are hoping to conceive then keep throwing your sparks out there and mixing them up as often as possible with as many other people as you can and sooner or later one of them will bear fruit.

Incubation

Once a spark has settled and appears to have the potential of coming to life comes the time when you need to handle it with the most care. It is all too easy to rush ahead and attempt to force its development, or to tell the world what is happening before it is mature enough to handle outside attentions.

Spend some time with those who helped you conceive, thinking things through and considering the implications of your actions. How will your project change your working lives? What might it contribute in the short or long term? What will it need if it is to thrive?

Now is an excellent time to get out the pens and pencils and start recording things. As time moves on you will find that your thinking and your options appear to narrow, so at the outset record as much as you can in order for you to then refer back to it at a later date. No note is too mundane, as it will help you to come back later and either remind yourself of something important to consider or reaffirm a more recent way of thinking.

If you are lucky enough to have someone with relevant expertise in your project area be sure to see them as soon as you can to get their advice. They will be able to speak from many years of experience, but be aware that all they can offer is advice, and the final decision with how to proceed will rest with you.

Giving birth

The part which scares most prospective project parents, the birth of your project can be a traumatic experience but is also one of the most satisfying elements of the entire process.

Project births are often accompanied by a lot of noise, a lot of sweat and a lot of work, with a fair bit of swearing and sometimes drugs involved. This is normal.

The project parents may also curse each other and question why they ever got themselves involved and into this situation in the first place. This too is normal.

However, that first moment when you realise the birth period is over and the project is out there in the big wide world, kicking and living all on its own, then everything becomes worthwhile. The possibilities for the future begin to open up, and the parents come back together to marvel at what they have created.

Enjoy these moments and savour them; they are what project development is all about.

Early years

You may think that the work stops once your young project has been presented to the world, but unfortunately it has actually only just begun. Like new restaurants many projects fold in their first few months, so if you are hoping for success then be prepared for the long hours and sleepless nights.

You will be surprised with the amount of time and energy which a new project will consume, not to mention the resources which go into simply sustaining them and keeping them alive. Feed it and care for it, and try to remind yourself that it will grow into something which eventually will give back all of the attention you are investing at this early stage, even though at this point it knows no better.

Toddlers

After a while you will notice that your project is far more stable, and that it is beginning to move at a pace it is determining itself and in directions which you didn’t expect – in essence, you can no longer put it down and ignore it, expecting it to still be in exactly the same place when you go back to it.

Toddler parents often get exasperated at this, but would do well to remember that this is the point at which outside stimulus is beginning to work wonders in the young project’s development. They are learning how to move under their own power and how to interact with other projects. The more they are shielded and hidden from others, the less they will be able to integrate at a later date, so swallow your apprehensions and watch them grow.

Youngsters

At this point your project will be interacting on a regular basis with other projects from all around, learning which ones will create beneficial relationships, which ones they can share their toys with and which should be avoided at all costs.

They will also start being exposed to all manner of germs and other nasty things which will try their best (to put it bluntly) to kill them. You will need to balance between avoiding and killing the worst of them with the need for your project to build up their own immune system: the more sterile and underexposed their environment, the more susceptible they will be to even minor problems in the future.

Be aware of their actions at this point, but be aware that your project needs to sink or swim of their own accord if they are to find their place in amongst their peers. The more you act like a helicopter parent the more difficult it will be for your project to develop its own life, personality and relationships, meaning that when the time comes for you to step back and let them stand or fall they will not be prepared and will fail. No parent wants this for their child, so remember that your greatest gift to your project will be to set them up to survive without you.

Adolescence and beyond

There will no doubt come a time when even the most dependant projects feel it is time for them to strike out on their own and get out from under the watchful gaze of their parents. This can be tough for both sides: your project will be left without you as a safety net for the first time so will be somewhat exposed, whilst you too will feel a hole as such a major part of your life moves on.

When this time comes it is important to look back and remember the good times you had before filling the hole they leave with something else. Some take up golf, others throw themselves into charity work.

The wonderful thing however is that there is of course nothing from stopping you from having another project and starting all the fun over again.

Welovelocalgovernment is a blog written by UK local government officers. If you have a piece you’d like to submit or any comments you’d like to make please drop us a line at: welovelocalgovernment@gmail.com

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