Perfection is Overrated

Since I retired, I’ve rekindled my fondness for working with wood. My workshop consists of the 43 inches between the front bumper of my truck and the east wall of my garage, although the truck moves when I need more room. Still, space matters, and I depend almost entirely on hand tools. And because space matters, I built a Dutch tool chest to store and protect them.Dutch Tool Chest

This is a classic design, with a lid that slants forward to discourage using it as a place to set things down “just for a few minutes,” and a fall-front door in a lower section. I also built a rolling cart, with a similar fall-front door, to keep it mobile. Loaded with tools, it weighs nearly 200 pounds.

I won’t bore you with the details of the mistakes I made, from lumber selection to design flaws, to flaws in the dovetails and dadoes I cut to join the case together, to rework as I learned to mix and apply milk paint. I’ll just say that, as I introduced errors, I corrected them. After thirty years in project management, I’m used to things not working out as expected. I even left a few errors exposed, to remind me that perfection is not only unachievable, but overrated.

Looking down into the chest A wise man once observed, “It isn’t a mistake until you can’t correct it.” And we’ve been acting on that sage advice for thousands of years. You simply have to accept the notion that good designs evolve, that adjustments are desirable, and that the result matters more than the process.

I could point out dozens of flaws in this project, but what people look at is the totality of the end result. From the Eddie Van Halen paint job to the intricate tool racks to the wainscotting on the back, to the bottle opener on the left side, it’s decorative as well as functional. And that is what matters.

Back

“The relentless pursuit of perfection has been my problem over the years. It’s maybe held me back.” Ronnie O’Sullivan had it right. If we fear making mistakes, we won’t get started. Even worse, we won’t finish anything. And since we spend time and money on projects to deliver benefits, we have to define acceptable quality based on the benefits we want to deliver, not the egos of the personalities involved.

Calculating National and Religious Holidays for Your Project Schedule

In November, 2014 I began an annual tradition: I collected a list of commonly observed national and religious holidays for the coming calendar year, and suggested that those holidays observed by the project team be accounted for as non-working days in project schedules for the coming year. But it’s time to remove myself from the equation: I’ve prepared an Excel workbook that will calculate my (now expanded) list of national and religious holidays, from 2021 through 2030.

How it Works

Many holidays are observed on a specific date, such as Canada Day. Organizations that observe these holidays usually have their own rules for what day to take off when they occur on a weekend, so excepting US Independence Day and Christmas, I don’t try to predict whether Friday or Monday will be non-working. Other holidays are based on relative dates such as third Monday of January, like Martin Luther King’s Birthday. In a couple of cases, the authorities added a wrinkle, such as last Monday in August. Others are based on a Lunar calendar; rather than try to calculate Lunar New Year or Passover, I created a look-up table and populated it through 2030.

Download the workbook using the link at the bottom of this page. Then enter the year you want to schedule for in the cell at the top of the Holidays tab, highlighted in orange.

Change Working Time in MS Project

Navigation depends on which version of project you are using. In Microsoft Project 2007, under the Tools menu, select Change Working Time.  In Project 2010 and later, on the Project tab, select Change Working Time.  You can then enter the holidays under the Exceptions tab.  Note that Exception days appear in the calendar in blue; however, if you have selected one of the exception dates, as shown in the example below, the date will appear in red.  Scheduled non-working days appear in gray.  Note that you can also make an exception of a scheduled non-working day, so that it appears to be a working day.  Use this feature carefully – having some of the team working over a weekend can easily throw off the scheduled for the entire team.

Creating a Custom Calendar

You can also create custom calendars, if your team is spread across multiple countries with different holidays. Again, the version of Microsoft Project you are using makes a difference in navigation. In Project 2007, under the Tools menu, select Change Working Time. In Project 2010 or later, on the Project tab, select Change Working Time. Click the Create New Calendar button in the upper right. Give the new calendar a meaningful name, then click the Make a copy of radio button. Select the Standard calendar from the pull-down list. Then click OK.

At this point, you can add the dates you want to mark as exceptions to the working calendar.  Enter the Name, Start, and Finish dates. Then click the Details button. Click the Working Times radio button.  The default working hours will appear; change them only if necessary.

Click OK to return to your custom calendar and enter the non-working dates that apply. Then assign each team member to the appropriate calendar using the Resource Sheet, in the column labeled Base.

Scheduling with Multiple Calendars

While it can be helpful to have MS Project automagically re-schedule after you make a change, be cognizant of what can happen when you have a summary task involving team members using different calendars. A change of one day in one detail task can cause the summary task completion date to change by two or more days. Scrutinize the results before you publish them, and investigate anything that seems wrong.

Once your career has progressed beyond managing a few folks co-located in one cube farm, your ability to think globally and manage a geographically distributed team will be key to how far you can go. Develop your multi-cultural knowledge, awareness, and communication skills, and when someone is needed to manage a project that crosses borders, you’ll be ready.