Vicki Griffiths is a Chartered Project Professional, and senior project manager at Fugro, a geo-data specialist. She’s also a Scout leader for the eighth and ninth Falmouth Scouts. It’s a big departure from her work managing offshore projects for oil, gas and renewables clients, but they do have some crossover.
“You might not immediately think being a project manager and a Scout leader have much in common, but I have found many parallels,” she says.
Project planning for boys and girls
Scheduling and planning is a big part of both of Griffiths’ roles. “As a Scout leader, I need to ensure that the programme for the term is fun.”
There are 12 Scouts in the group, boys and girls, ranging in age from 10-14. The activities need to be varied to appeal to everyone. Griffiths has planned activities such as lighting fires, outdoor cooking, axe throwing, first aid, building nesting boxes for birds and geocaching.
As far as project objectives go, it’s all about helping the Scouts achieve all nine of their challenge badges, so they can achieve the coveted Gold award. “I have a four-year plan that reminds me of what I need to include in my planning for the term so that each Scout has the chance to achieve this.”
Griffiths engages her 12 stakeholders on activities they’d like to take part in, to ensure that they are engaged in the programme. “At the end of each session I ask my Scouts for feedback on what they thought, so that I can learn and adapt my future programming.”
Sometimes the weather will put an end to a carefully laid plan, so Griffiths needs to be able to change tack. “Managing change is a frequently used skill.”
The many risks of Scouting
As you’d imagine, axe throwing and starting fires come with some serious risks. “I confess that I have never had to write a risk assessment for axe-throwing while at work,” says Griffiths. “But the same principles apply.”
Budgeting is also a crucial skill for the Scout leader; camping trips need to be accurately costed up to make sure that the budget is used in a sustainable way. “Organising a budget for the camping trip might not involve the figures I normally work with in my geotechnical projects, but it is still important to work out how much it will cost and whether the group has enough money coming in to cover the costs. The aim is not necessarily to make a profit, but it is very important to avoid a loss.”
While the Scouts themselves are fairly manageable stakeholders, there are other, tougher stakeholders that Griffiths needs to engage with – such as the parents. “The group has a private Facebook page where I can send updates about what we are doing, send out reminders for subscriptions and also request help. The parents in my group are very keen to get involved. I had some willing volunteers to help when the Scouts were learning first aid and needed to practise their bandaging.”
Learning problem-solving skills
Above all, the Scouts is about empowering children to learn problem-solving skills and how to work as a team. It’s taught Griffiths some lessons about how teams can function – particularly, that they won’t always respond or approach the problem as you’d expect.
“Recently, I set them a team challenge to cross the floor using two planks without touching the floor themselves,” says Griffiths. “I thought that they would try to get as many Scouts as possible on a plank and then swap between the two planks until they were all across the floor. I was amazed to watch individuals shuffling across the floor on the planks and then pushing them back to the rest of the team so that they could cross too. It worked, reminding me that there are many ways to solve a problem.”
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This article is adapted from Winter 2019 of Project journal, a free publication for APM Members.