Project management skills to make the holiday season better

Posted by Heather Villa, CMA, MBA, MSM on December 15, 2009 in: Project Management

xmasdinnerWhen you think about it, your Big Family Christmas Dinner is one gigantic project requiring project management to be successful. The ideal outcome of your “project” is that you have your family seated around the table at the same time that all of the food comes hot out of the kitchen.

In order to do that, you need to employ the following project management skills:

1. Plan ahead! It won’t be very effective to invite everyone over on Wednesday for Thursday dinner. Uncle Albert has several lady friends who would likely have invited him over much earlier. And grandma would be offended if she didn’t get her hand-written invitation in September.

2. Work with staggered deadlines. You don’t just put the turkey, potatoes, yams, dressing, cranberries, and brussel sprouts into the oven at 350 for an hour. You’ll get undercooked turkey and overcooked brussel sprouts (and the cranberries shouldn’t go in at all). Instead, you need to be aware that project tasks are staggered: Some things need to be started sooner than others and other things can wait until later. This requires some forethought.

3. Prepare for holding patterns. Be prepared to put things into holding patterns when you don’t need them right away but will need them soon. Send the kids downstairs to play Guitar Hero. Put out a decanter of wine in the living room for the adults. And, be aware that it takes some people less time to be dialed back into the project than others. (Call the kids upstairs about forty-five minutes before you actually need them to be seated at the table.)

4. Assume the worst. Something will go wrong. Maybe Aunt Edna will drink too much again and say something nasty to your kids. Or maybe one of the kids will drop the big glass bowl of potatoes on the way to the table. There will be disasters. Guaranteed. You do your best to mitigate them, but when they happen, roll with the punches. Find a workaround; figure out a solution. Cut Aunt Edna’s wine with a little grape juice this year. Or laugh off the potato mishap and boil some more. When something happens (and it will) don’t obsess about it. Deal with it and move on.

5. Remember that projects don’t wrap up with the deliverable. After dinner, everyone leaves the table. The kids go back to Guitar Hero. The adults waddle into the living room to sleep. Case closed? No way! There is a stack of dishes and leftovers that need to be put away. Your deliverable may have been successful but the show isn’t over yet. Build time into your project plan to wrap up the project successfully.

This holiday, your family’s annual feast is a great example of project management in action! If you run into a challenge in your work-related project management, just think to yourself: “How would I deal with it if this problem was a turkey and the stakeholders were my inebriated relatives?” Believe me, that will make your project management so much more entertaining (and perhaps more effective)!

Happy Blogging!

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