Santa: The Ultimate Project Management Guru

Posted by Heather Villa, CMA, MBA, MSM on December 24, 2009 in: Delegation for Success, Project Management

BE001052Recently, I wrote about your Christmas dinner as a project management exercise. But now that it’s just about Christmas, I’ve realized that the real project management guru of the season is Santa himself. What a project: Making toys for good little girls and boys and then delivering them in one night. Can you imagine the complexity that a project like that would have?

Number crunching
First, let’s think of the numbers: According to The Economist’s Pocket World in Figures, there are about 6.4 billion people in the world and about 28% of them of them are under 15 years old. Using some broad assumptions about the age of kids who believe in Santa (let’s say 10 and under), along with the understanding that not every child in the world lives in a country or practices a religion that recognizes the fat jolly man (let’s say three quarters to be safe, but it’s probably far more), I’m estimating about 300,000,000 children get toys from Santa each year.

Project management schedule
Now, let’s work backwards in Santa’s production timeline, beginning from his delivery: If he starts about 8pm on Christmas Eve at the International Date Line and stuffs stockings all the way around the globe back to the International Date Line at about 4am on Christmas Day, he actually has more than 24 hours of effective delivery time. (Closer to 32 or 36 if my chronological estimates are correct).

There’s probably a week of loading and likely some drop points along the way, so let’s assume a week or two of distribution. And if he takes Mrs. Claus on a two-week Caribbean cruise, he’s left with about 336 days of the year to make toys for three hundred million children.

As a project management guru, Santa is not only an expert at delivery (as we’ve seen) and distribution (as we’ve safely assumed), but he’s very likely also a master of delegation. If every stocking holds an average of 10 gifts then Santa has 3 billion gifts made in 336 days. What kind of staffing delegation is required for that effort?

Delegation is the keyimage004
If every elf can make 3 toys a day then one elf can make about 1000 toys in a year (with 2 weeks off for vacation, plus other duties during the distribution phase that leads up to Christmas). Using that calculation, Santa needs 3 million elves to do his work.

When you consider that Santa also needs raw materials to make the toys, he seems to have set up an impressive supply chain that rivals anything created by Dell. And do I need to mention: Animal support for his eight tiny reindeer, plus time to read and answer children’s letters, plus the inevitable union challenges and HR headaches that come with having that many employees working together.

And will all of this attention to detail, he still has time to be jolly and make tireless public relations trips to malls and parades around the world. Amazing! If he would only write a book to tell us his productivity secrets, he’d have an army of productivity coaches and enthusiasts lined up to read it.

Merry Christmas!

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