How To Hug the Elephant!

By Lakecia Carter, PMP

Have you ever managed an ‘elephant project”? An elephant project is the largest, most complex project in your world. Do you recall how long it took for you to get your brains around it? How long before you felt you were adding value as a PM? If you’re like me, you may have experienced some discouragement in the beginning. Although I’d been managing projects for years, I felt overwhelmed and grew somewhat impatient with myself. Nevertheless, I knew that in order to be successful, I had to overcome my feelings and get on with the program! Eventually, I learned to change my perspective and “hug” the elephant. Here are the lessons I learned that I still apply every day:

Face it and embrace it!
Don’t fear the elephant. You are equipped with the tools you need to succeed. Whatever you lack, you can learn. Big projects offer great risk, but great rewards. You have to step up your game and do it quickly. Never let them see you sweat! Put on your game face and be confident even though you’re not “there” yet.

Focus on the “who” before the “how”.
Realize you can’t do it alone. It takes many arms joined together to get around the elephant; It takes a team. Cultivate key relationships with your team. Take time to set up one-on-one calls, lunch or quick meetings and get to know them. How you get it done will depend totally on your team. Besides, the relationships you build will live well beyond your project. Be genuine and intentional as you do.

Put first things first one day at a time.
You have a lot of information to organize in a short amount of time. Brainstorm and come up with a list of all of the work items you can think of. Prioritize your list and set daily goals to accomplish them. It may also help to set aside 15-30 minutes at the end of the day for your own debrief. Write down:  What did you learn today? Who did you meet and how can they help you and vice versa? What do I need to focus on tomorrow?

Managing ‘elephant projects’ can be a challenge no matter how much PM experience you have. Sometimes you may get discouraged and feel as though you’re not adding value right away. Just remember there’s nothing to be afraid of. Get to know the people who will make it happen. Most importantly, don’t eat the elephant; just take things one day at a time.

What is your advice for PMs facing an elephant projects? Show us how you’ve learned to hug the elephant and keep from being trampled!


2 Responses to “How To Hug the Elephant!”

  1. Angela D. Jones; PMP says:

    This is great adivce! I’m on the verge of being offered a contract role for a MONSTER project and was feeling a little intimindated. This has helped tremendously. THANK YOU!! I believe I can “hug” the elephant.

  2. Lakecia says:

    Great Angela! I know the feeling. Remember, you have everything you need to be successful! You’ve got it covered! Glad to provide a source of encouragement for you! Hug!

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