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Urgently Wanted: Project Manager

I was thinking in my car again the other day, but this time I had rather too much time on my hands.
I was stuck in a traffic jam.
Now, it has been some time since I had been in this unfortunate position, but that it seems, is down to luck on my part. This is because…

  • There are nearly half a million traffic jams in Britain every year. That is nearly 10,000 a week!
  • There are between 200 and 300 incidents of major congestion every day.
  • A quarter of Britain’s main roads are jammed for an hour a day.
  • Congestion levels are forecast to grow by between 11 and 20 per cent over the next ten years.
  • Nearly a quarter of people affected by congestion experience it every day, and 55 per cent experience it at least once a week.
  • The cost of traffic jams to British business is £20 billion every year.

I went through the typical cycle of moods when I was stuck in my traffic jam – for about 2 hours in total.

  • Enthusiasm – at travelling to another assignment and generally being in my car on a bright sunny morning
  • Total Confusion – as the traffic came to a halt without warning or any previous suggestion of problems
  • Disillusionment – as the expected ‘small delay’ evolved into a larger delay and which point I called the traffic line and learnt the horrible truth and full scale of the problem
  • Search for the Guilty – as we crawled along I stared out of window seeking out the cause of my misery and the evil driver(s) who had sabotaged my plans for the day
  • Punishment of the Innocent – my anger moved on to anybody who failed to move forward quickly enough in the queue or who tried to change lanes in front of me
  • Reward and Promotion of the Non-participants – maybe not whilst I was in the jam itself, but when I finally crawled past the recovery vehicles and police there was a wave of relief and thanks for the work they do

Yes I know, it sounds like any project you have ever been involved in, doesn’t it?

So, would a super-project manager flying into the situation have saved the day? Would I have been out of the jam any quicker?

Possibly; when driving we are all pilots of our own little project but we take little or no consideration for each other. No-one has a great project plan for the day’s travel, if we did then perhaps congestion could be better managed and when problems occurred a better recovery plan could be exercised.

That said; consider your risk planning before you head off for that journey. I typically build a significant contingency period in to my travel plans – longer if this is a first time meeting or engagement, or if the appointment time is inflexible (such as a speaking engagement). I consider alternative travel plans if there are known regular issues on my route. I also ensure that I have all the necessary means of communication to let people know of my progress (or lack of it).

I like being in my car, but not for too long!

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About Peter Taylor

Peter Taylor
Peter is a dynamic and commercially astute professional who has achieved notable success in Project Management. His background is in project management across three major business areas over the last 26 years, MRP/ERP systems with various software houses and culminating in his current role with Infor, Business Intelligence (BI) with Cognos, and product lifecycle management (PLM) with Siemens. He has spent the last 7 years leading PMOs and developing project managers and is now focusing on project based services development with Infor. He is also an accomplished communicator and leader and is a professional speaker as well as the author of “The Lazy Project Manager” (Infinite Ideas) and “Leading Successful PMOs” (Gower). More information can be found at www.thelazyprojectmanager.com – and through his free podcasts in iTunes.


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  2. satish dandekar

    The situation which you have painted of traffic jam in UK is appreciated. The situation which we face in some of the metro cities in India is some time beyond project managers imagination – you have rightly said that while traveling have contingency plan this is very true in the countries where infrastructure ( road, air connectivity needs improvement).

    I appreciate with your views ( lazy PM ) and I feel that it can also help – the transport authorities and the users to overcome ” chaos”.

  3. Satish

    Thank you for your comment. In fact I just recently compared notes with a colleague who had returned from India and was explaining to me the scale of the travel times involved in getting from his hotel to the office location each morning and back again each evening. For my part I experienced something similar in Sao Paulo, maybe not like the chaos you describe but at least well beyond anything I have experienced in the UK. After a speaking engagement I was advised to allow an incredible amount of time for my trip back to the airport due to the unknown but frequently horrendous traffic jams, and these made worse by the possible heavy rain at that time.

    So what is different? Well the infrastructure or backbone of the road and traffic management system in the UK is better I would suspect but as we all experience problems from time to time then I guess it is down to the capacity of the network. When operating close to the maximum capacity, as city roads often are, then the smallest thing can trigger major issues.

    Can I advise the transport authorities? I am not sure I can – it is, as I said, down to the investment in the infrastructure and road network capacity.

    Can I advise the users? Well yes, it is a matter of scale of contingency (time and fuel), it is a matter of communications when problems occur, it is a matter of use of technology to overcome the challenges (Satellite Navigation with alternative route planning is wonderful – I can now just pick a road safe in the knowledge that the Sat Nav will guide me to my destination) and it is a matter of ‘do I really need to do this journey and do I need to do it at this time?’.

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