I often enjoy observing the way people shop at the supermarket.
It’s amazing how a simple activity like this can demonstrate what I mean by project mindset.
In fact, by observing how buyers move between the shelves, a division into two broad categories is evident: who uses the shopping list and who does not.
This apparently trivial distinction actually underlies two radically different managerial approaches.
Shopping with list
Often the list is organized following the arrangement of the shelves.
The user has a list of things to buy, written on paper (in which case a pen is also needed) or recorded on an electronic device.
As the operations proceed, the purchased items are crossed out and, occasionally, something not in the list is added to the cart.
All in all, the activity ends within the planned time and budget constraints and the shopper returns home with the necessary to restore stocks.
Usually there is everything you need to start preparing dinner.
Shopping without list
In this case buyers are much more dynamic: they follow the path of the shelves moving continuously from one side to the other, scanning for items that catch their attention.
Because they often moves in pairs, they asks the partner about the need or not to buy a certain product:
“Do we have green olives at home?”
“What would you say if we tried these tortellini tonight?”
Shopping generally takes much longer, ending with a packed cart, a very long receipt and, once back home, with the discovery that some basic ingredients for dinner are missing.
The project mindset
If we think back to the activities carried out by the manager, shopping would seem to belong to the category of daily operations.
In fact, it’s an activity that is performed habitually and which is characterised by a considerable dose of predictability.
Yet, against a small investment of time (a few minutes to prepare it), using the list brings clear advantages in terms of time, costs and quality of the result (I come home with the articles I need).
In reality, what distinguishes those who shop with the list is their project mindset.
It’s a way of approaching activities characterised by 4 fundamental phases.
- Before starting an activity, no matter how operational, we stop to reflect on the objectives of our actions and how to achieve them. In a nutshell, before acting we plan (we check what is missing at home and write it in the shopping list).
- While the activity is in progress, we control its progress (we check the items in the list included in the cart) and, if necessary, we make the necessary changes (we add items that we had forgotten to include in the list).
- Before concluding the activity, we verify the achievement of the set objectives (all the items on the list have been crossed out), highlighting any anomalies (one product not found, another not purchased because it is too expensive or not of the desired quality) so as to being able to manage them later (purchases to be made in another store).
- At the end of the activity, we finalize: we scroll through the receipt to see how much we have spent (sometimes even identifying the items that have caused deviations from our forecast) and finally, we take a look at the clock to check how long it took us.
Obviously, precisely because they are part of daily operations, these phases are applied to our activities almost automatically.
We are not faced with any burdens but, on the contrary, the adoption of the project mindset involves a more effective and efficient use of our resources.
To learn more: Become a successful Project Manager