As most of you are aware, the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) defines Project Management as “the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities to meet the project requirements.” After a summer of fun, I couldn’t help but think that while I manage projects in various areas in my business life, I am surrounded by successful Project Managers every day in my personal life, and so are others. Each and every day you can pick up any newspaper and read a story about projects that were completed, but Project Management is often used as a “scapegoat”. Sure, there are tons of successful projects and most are because Project Management was timely because the Project teams focus on meeting or beating cost, schedule, or scope. But, it made me wonder why we fail so often at something we do so frequently.
So, back to my summer of fun. I had the opportunity to do so many things with my family. Each and every summer I get to go to my favorite place on earth, Chatham, Massachusetts on Cape Cod. I am fortunate to have a close group of family members who are able to join every year. There are the usual 15-20 cousins, aunts, and uncles, but we also are lucky enough to have another 15-20 family members who come every few years. Why am I telling you all of this? It’s because I had an epiphany with regards to how much Project Management comes into play when this week comes around. I thought it would be fun to look at the five process groups that entail Project Management Processes (Initiating, Planning, Executing, Monitoring/Controlling, and Closing) and how they really make a successful trip.
As an aside, my immediate family can identify with others living with a Project Manager, especially because of my usual PM focus, but there are occasions where it comes in handy. To give you an idea of how far I have gone, a few years ago I created a spreadsheet for our Disney World visit. You may laugh out loud or more than likely roll your eyes at this point, but I stand by my idiosyncrasies because my family each had requests of what they wanted to see and what they wanted to do. With some timely use of the processes I have learned through the years, everyone was able to see what they wished to see; be it a princess, a parade, or the Pirates of the Caribbean theme ride.
For those who don’t know about Chatham or Cape Cod, it can be treated like any other vacation spot and has tourist traps galore. With upwards of 40 family members all vacationing at once, planning is of utmost importance to avoid those tourist traps. So, on to the initiating phase. There are a handful of us that have been coming here for over 35 years so we usually are the ones who focus on some of the requirements. My older cousin and I usually are the ones who try to sort through all of these requirements since we are part of the original group. However, it’s not to say that we make all of the decisions without input. We need to make sure we take into consideration some of the constraints. This includes pleasing the younger cousins who always have a say in where we go and what they want to see. And there are also the older family members who may have some restrictions such as how mobile they are so care needs to be taken in where we go for some of the all-in family nights (bbq’s, beach nights, and dinner locations). Meeting both the young and the old is always a challenge, but usually dictates the execution, or whatever the activity is, of each phase.
With the use of text messages, plain old sticky notes and scratched notes on sides of old newspapers, we are always able to monitor and control how things are going. And one of the most efficient and relaxing ways of planning at the end of each night is to sit around a fire pit, roasting s’mores or enjoying ice cream and discussing not only how things went that day, but also looking ahead to the next few days. For the newcomers, the veterans of our family vacation always give options based on feedback to try for the next day. All of these Project Management tools come into play way more than I ever thought about. And, with most project close outs it is done with handshakes, hugs and the soon to be patented, “Corcoran sendoff”.
So, what makes all of this possible each and every year with so many people? It is due to the strength of family, but it is also due to the PM skills inherent in us as Project Managers. We are able to successfully get the most out of vacation each and every time because of the process. Sure, we don’t follow the PMBOK for each and everything we do in life, but it sure helps us all in areas that aren’t necessarily sitting at a desk or on a project site. Next time you set out on a family vacation I implore you to think of this approach and see if it might help avoid some sad faces, just like you want to avoid those faces in your professional life.