How long does it take to build a house in seven days? According to Susan DeVito, project leader for a recent Habitat for Humanity blitz build, it took 10 months of planning to achieve a smooth volunteer operation with an inspiring result. Some experts suggest that up to 90% of all projects fail ...perhaps if we paid the type of attention to our projects that Susan describes, we’d have a better success rate. Thanks, Susan for describing the four principles that helped you achieve dramatic success.
Leading Projects -- A Habitat for Humanity Blitz Build
By Susan DeVito
Last fall, I had the good fortune of leading our local Habitat for Humanity affiliate’s blitz build project, building a house in one week. As project leader I focused on four important components: clarifying the project strategy and objectives; leveraging team members; effectively implementing the project plan; and communicating to all stakeholders.
I came on board the Habitat project five months into the ten month planning cycle, and found very talented individuals unclear about the objective. I brought the team together, and clearly defined the project’s scope, schedule and risks.
We finalized the objective for the blitz week, and secured the city’s commitment (for weekend inspections) and studied the schedule before moving forward. We next clarified the responsibilities of the construction, marketing/PR, fundraising, volunteers, and sponsorship committees, and ensured alignment of skills and positions. Erin, an account executive with a marketing agency and newly out of college, was well suited for the marketing chair. With involved coaching, she blossomed on the project creating a logo and extensive PR coverage. For the construction leader, we made a personnel change due to philosophical differences over the role.
Over the next five months, our team met regularly to execute the project plan step by step. Erin described later described the process, "Big picture tasks were broken down into doable chunks, preventing the committee members from feeling overwhelmed. I felt like the work was doable, and I felt empowered".
Constant communication amongst the team was critical. We created meeting notes documenting key decisions. An action item register kept up the momentum for moving activities forward. We informed the board of directors, city, homeowner, and building partners on a regular basis. It is difficult to think of everything for a project, however, with good communications, you can catch items earlier. Our team discovered gutters were a city requirement two weeks before the build, and handled the installation during the build.
The blitz build was successful in providing a home for our partnering family in just 7 days, covering 90% of the housing costs, securing 19 newspaper publications, staffing Habitat’s Board of Directors with 4 blitz build leaders, and being selected for a sponsored pilot program for two homes in 2005.
Leading teams can be a rewarding experience, especially on projects as rewarding as helping families own their first home, however, planning is critical to making any project a success and the four components of project management provide a simple guideline to follow:
Four Components of Successful Project Management:
-- clarify the project strategy and objectives;
-- leverage team members;
-- effectively implement the project plan
-- communicate to all stakeholders. Best wishes on all your projects
... Susan DeVito is President and Managing Member of The DeVito Group, LLC, a project management and leadership consulting firm based in Chicago. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 630-904-4347.
You can find out more information about Fox Valley Habitat for Humanity at their websie.