Giving Back – A Project Review

Recently I led a team of fifty volunteers on an outdoor community service project.  

Proper Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance

The project required several weeks of preparation gathering materials; confirming with utilities we could in fact dig where we wanted to install new basketball poles; coordinating rental equipment; recruiting volunteers, and more.

In many ways, this project was smaller than others I had helped coordinate in the past.

But despite being smaller, this project really challenged me to grow as a leader.

Here are the three big wins from the project:

  1. We had more than enough volunteers, materials, and resources to complete the project.  
  2. The weather was beautiful the morning of the project.
  3. We completed everything we could before noon.

The truth is, we did our part to plan for the morning’s events.  We picked up supplies from Home Depot, reserved rental equipment from a local tool rental company, and communicated with our volunteers the week leading up to the event.

We had a great team recruiting for the event and managing volunteers in the database, and for their help I’m grateful.

But all was not well.  Let’s look at the three biggest challenges from the project:

  1. The utility marking companies failed to mark before the deadline.

This meant we couldn’t install the new basketball poles.  I scheduled the marking eleven days before the event, and they were confirmed to mark our dig area with a full week to spare.  I even spoke with them the evening before, asking for an emergency locate.  They still didn’t show.

Despite all signs indicating we would have been safe digging where we had planned, we didn’t want to take that big of a risk.

We wanted to focus on keeping volunteers safe.

This breakdown in the project caused me to question many things, including my ability as a leader.  Needless to say, I left the project feeling despondent and frustrated.

2.  I didn’t recruit and delegate to a team of leaders.

Almost all of the projects we had on our list could be accomplished in less than an hour, but I failed to recruit a team of project leaders in advance.  This put the pressure on me to ask for volunteer leaders the morning of the event, which was completely unfair and irresponsible, and it didn’t give me sufficient time to cast the vision properly.


3.  The project required three days of commitment.

We aim to perform projects that can be completed within a morning’s time, out of respect for our volunteers’ time.  But the digging and pouring had to be performed the following week, on the hottest day of the month, leaving the backboard installation for yet a third day of recruiting volunteers.  Truthfully, I think we could have met our morning deadline if the utilities had been marked beforehand. 

Here’s the question I have for you:

Where can you, as a leader, serve your people better?

This may mean better planning, or it may mean delegation.  Or perhaps a class on project planning.

Whatever it is, I encourage to learn that new skill today.

Thanks for reading.