Do you remember the game SimCity? You would build virtual cities that would succeed or fail based on the choices you make. Projects are similar to SimCity. You make choices, and you select to put resources into one area and not another. You can forget key components (a school or fire station in SimCity, requirement gathering and stakeholder engagement in a project.) But when you miss something important, it can have grave consequences. Your entire project can start to wither and die.
I’ll repeat a theme that you may have heard me talk about before: every project should happen twice. First, it should happen when you are planning it out. Then it should happen in real life. Your first run at the project is the simulation. Follow the bunny trails. Find out what happens when you decide to ignore certain groups of stakeholders. Think about what might happen if you were to finish early, or finish late. A project plan isn’t only a roadmap; it is your chance to play with the possibilities.
Then, when the project runs for real, you can compare real-life to your simulation. Real life isn’t like the simulation, but the simulation will help you deal with what is happening with your project. This is why pilots fly flight simulators. Pilots don’t think that they are in a real plane when they are in the simulator, but the skills that get from the simulator are used every day when they are flying us safely.
SimSaas is a product that simulates what might happen to a company with certain types of investments. I learned about this product from The Early Stage Founder: B2B SaaS Startups podcast. It would be great if someone built a product that would simulate the outcome of our projects for us. You could feed in the data: these are our desired outcomes, these are the tasks and time we have. The simulator could then figure out what the scenarios and results would be. We could change certain variables and then see what the simulation said. We would still have to do the project in real life, but then when something went differently than planned, we could re-run the simulation to see where we might end up.
Postscript: After I was done this post I went to look for Project Simulation Software. Though I found a few ideas, none of the top search results gave me a result of a good simulator that would work with all of my projects. The need is still out there.