Tag: Meet Our Students

Consider the Process

By Ethan Struckmeyer

You wake up early, rubbing the sleep from your eyes. You begin to go over the plan you’ve prepared for the big moment. You put on the appropriate clothes and tie your shoes. You walk out the door ready to tackle the challenge ahead of you. Soon, nerves creep in and you start to wonder if you’re really as prepared as you thought you were. But once you’ve started you’re reminded that you’ve got this. After all, you’ve been preparing for this for quite some time. Finally, after it’s all over, you can leave feeling like you’ve accomplished something important.

Ethan Team TillamookThis is the process navigated by my Community Planning Workshop team and I as we set out to meet with our client in the land of trees, cheese, and ocean breeze – Tillamook County. It was our first in-person visit with county staff since our project started in January. The goal of the meeting was to gain a better understanding of what specific sections of their Development Code could be improved to better mitigate the risks to life and property caused by natural hazards in the area such as landslide, coastal erosion, flooding, and tsunami.

Similarly, this is also the process we navigated as we set out for a post-client meeting group run through the trails of Cape Lookout, along the coast of the Pacific Ocean. The 4.6 mile, out and back trail provided the perfect amount of challenge and scenic views as we debriefed our recently concluded client meeting.

At first read, you probably thought “I respectfully disagree with you, Ethan. How could you have followed the same process when client meetings and trail running are completely dissimilar?”

Well, thank you for asking.

When you think about it and begin to parse out the main aspects of each situation you will start to see the similarities – plan, practice, and execute.

Before heading into either situation, whether it’s going for a run or meeting with a client, you need to make a plan. How far can you run and where will you go? Can you run 4 miles without feeling like your lungs are on fire? What are the main objectives you hope to accomplish in your meeting? Do you have the right shoes?

After you’ve made your plan, you need to practice. How many times do you run in a week? Are you getting better at it? Do you know exactly what you’re going to present to the client? Are you knowledgeable enough to answer any questions your client might have on your topic? You don’t want to stumble. You might scuff your knee.

Now that you’ve set out your plan and you’ve been practicing, all you need to do is execute. Are you nervous you’ll make a mistake? Don’t be. You’ve planned for that. Keep calm, breathe, and you’ll get to the finish line.

Ethan Struckmayer

Ethan StruckmayerBorn, raised, and educated in Minnesota, I moved to Oregon in 2014 to serve in the Resource Assistance for Rural Environments (RARE) Americorps Program where I worked on land-use and long range planning for the cities of Donald and Gervais. I’m now in my first year studying to become a Master of Community and Regional Planning at the University of Oregon. You can usually find me playing disc golf, homebrewing, or watching a Green Bay Packers game.

Project Managing or Team Managing?

By Seth Lenaerts

Before taking the plunge into graduate school, I worked as a Project Manager for Devils Lake Water Improvement District in Lincoln City, Ore. Project managing then seemed rather straight forward. First, the District Board set policy. Then my District Manager and I developed projects to implement the policy.

Evaluation of how I was doing as a project manager was straightforward too.  Was I meeting the objectives, solving the problems that we identified, and doing so within budget?  Don’t get me wrong, it was difficult, and I wasn’t always successful, but the goals of the program and how to evaluate it were clear.

When I began working on my Community Planning Workshop (CPW) team, I was excited about the prospect of letting someone else do the project managing so I could focus on the project. I was also looking forward to learning skills from the project manager that I could use when I began leading teams again. However, I quickly realized that the real challenge for CPW managers isn’t necessarily managing their projects, it is managing their teams!

CPW Project Managers face the complicated balancing act of meeting their project goal, while providing opportunities for each student team members to meet their professional goals. This was a unique concept to me. After reflecting on this question during winter term I’ve come up with three routine practices that project mangers can do to achieve both: (1) Limit surprises through clear communication/expectations, (2) Ensure your group truly understands the project, (3) Find ways to keep the project fresh, and minds stimulated.

To me limiting surprises means a thorough orientation to CPW protocols. This can be done by taking extra time at the kickoff of the project to baby step your group through the administrative workings of CPW. Hopefully this will help your team focus on the project related challenges as opposed to administrative tasks.

Second, is making sure your team really understand the project. A mantra of CPW is the project doesn’t matter as much as the process. To me “process” means, identify the problem, come up with possible solutions, select the most viable solution, implement, and evaluate. Team members have a number of assignments throughout the term, as the project manager it is important to demonstrate the connection between the assignment, the process, and the project.

Lastly, is stimulating the brain. A comment I have heard from my colleagues is they are so busy producing content, they don’t critically think anymore. That is a real concern! For me problem solving based discussion is the most important part of the process. Therefore, project managers should seek to create time explicitly for critical thinking activities and discussion.

As our team hits the mid point of this experience, I’ve taken time to think about how these practices can be applied to the second half of the CPW project. However, it quickly become obvious that limiting surprises, understanding the project, and stimulating conversation can be applied to any project, not just CPW. I look forward to incorporating these practices into my future management style.

Seth Lenaerts

Seth Lenaerts is a student in the University of Oregon’s Community and Regional Planning Program.