What I learned about project management from a hike in South Dakota

It has been a while since my last post. I took some time off from blogging and work, and spent some time up in South Dakota. We happened to be in the Rapid City area during the week of the Sturgis Rally. If you have never been to the rally, it is impossible to understand the overwhelming magnitude of the sights and sounds.

No matter where we went in the Western half of South Dakota and the Eastern part of Wyoming, a motorcycle could be either seen or heard. In fact, the low rumbling of a hundred Harley’s could be heard almost constantly. I would love to see a bubble chart of motorcycle positions on top of a map of South Dakota over the course of the week.

While there, we spent a lot of time driving the scenic byways and hiking the trails in Custer State Park. One such hike was to the top of Little Devil’s Tower. We picked up the trail at the mid-point parking area, which left us about two miles to hike.

The trail started in a valley and was extremely easy. The path was well worn and snaked through a Ponderosa pine stand littered with rocks and an occasional deer.

At about the one-third of the way down the path it started getting steeper with switch-backs and sweeping curves that detoured around large rock formations. I would consider this portion moderately intense.

The final third included a 45-degree climb up a loose rock covered death-trap. Making your way up this final portion of the trail requires patience, concentration, and a good, stout walking stick.

At the top of the trail, a crevasse opened up to the left with a trail-mark blaze painted directly on the rock. The last hundred vertical feet to the top of the 6,338 foot peak is gained by climbing up onto the top of the huge rock formation at the peak.

Getting there was a lot of work, but the view was amazing. We accomplished our goal and got to relish in our success for a few minutes before we had to start back down in order to make it back to the cars by dark.

Which brings us back to the topic of project management. Projects often start out at an easy pace with the assumption that time can be made up later in the project. About half-way through, the pace starts to get a little more frantic as the end date starts to get close, And, near the very end, we often end up climbing near vertical walls to get finished in time–sometimes slipping back and getting banged up in the process.

The challenge of managing projects would just not be worth the effort were it not for the view at the top once the project ends. Looking around and seeing what you have accomplished makes all the work somehow worth it. So when you finish your next project, take time to enjoy the view and remember to congratulate your team. They worked hard and earned it.

See you next time…