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For those of you who are Do It Yourself (DIY) pros, you may not consider this a significant accomplishment, but not usually being a DIY’er, I am quite pleased with having installed ceramic wall tiles for the first time ever. In this particular case, the tiling was backsplash for our main bathroom sink area. Once the work was completed, a friend who had provided a lot of hands-on assistance and tool support suggested that there might be some delivery lessons I could harvest from this home improvement project so thanks Brendan for inspiring this article!

Measure twice, cut once

Part of the project involved the installation of trim at the left, right and top sides of the backsplash area. Having purchased an eight foot length of aluminum trim, we needed to cut it to fit and we needed to use a mitre box to get a 45 degree angle so the top left and right corner pieces would join cleanly. Although my friend measured the lengths and used that information to prepare for the cuts, he had me double-check the measurements on the trim length to confirm they were correct before starting to saw.

When you face a critical decision on a project, there can be a benefit in having your recommendation vetted by a trusted, independent party. While project decisions are made with imperfect information, this additional review can help to reduce the impacts of biases which you or your team might have.

Invest in good resources

My friend happened to have a half tub of premixed grout left over from his last project. When I checked the grout it was soft but fairly dry. While I could have tried to rehydrate it, this would have been a risky move as neither he nor I knew for certain how much water would need to be added. While there is some latitude for the consistency of the grout, adding too much water would have resulted in a runny grout which would run off and not set whereas too little would have resulted in a grout which wouldn’t adhere well to the gaps between the tiles.

Given this, even though I only required a small amount, I chose to purchase a new tub. While it was costly, by doing so I was able to avoid one risk and had the confidence to do the grouting by myself thanks to the assistance of a few YouTube videos.

With projects, it can be tempting to work with what you can get with minimal effort and cost. Such short-term thinking might translate into longer term pain, so it is worth the effort to lobby for the right resources for those activities which present the greatest risk to successful delivery.

Keep your constraints in mind

My friend did not have a tile cutter and wanting to reduce the complexity and costs of the job, I needed to determine a tile size and backsplash layout which would work without the need for cutting. This constraint guided me to accept a stacked tile layout rather than a brickwork style.

Blue sky planning might result in a creative, ideal solution, but incorporating constraints ensures that plans are realistic.

While my project was quite small and simple, it still provided some useful lessons which could be applied to more complex contexts.

(If you liked this article, why not pick up my book Easy in Theory, Difficult in Practice which contains 100 other lessons on project leadership? It’s available on  and on  as well as a number of other online book stores)

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