The Basics of Project Management: Lessons from the Holidays

Thanksgiving at my home is not necessarily a huge undertaking. It’s normally an all-day cooking session followed by an all evening eating session, just the way it should be. It involves my immediate family only. Since there are six of us, and since most of us live in other parts of the country, Thanksgiving is still some precious family time amongst all of us that we get to enjoy annually. For the most part, our cooking and eating plans move seamlessly and this year, I started to think about why and how we make that happen. A few key themes jumped out, themes that I find applicable to projects in my workplace as well.

Set clear expectations: Whatever the end objective is, everyone should know it before the project gets underway. For us, it’s about making sure we’re all on board with the menu.

Assign roles and responsibilities: Having specificity around who is doing what is really important. For our menu to take shape, we all contribute. My mom takes a leadership role and ensures that everything is moving along. The rest of us have tasks and assignments as far as preparation for menu items is concerned.

Timelines are important: We know that the cooking and eating all happen on one day. However, shopping for groceries and ensuring that everyone shows up requires planning.

Team leaders are key: Someone has to be looking at the bigger picture to ensure that our end goals are being met. It’s crucial to have someone who’s willing to take that responsibility.

Get buy-in across the board: It’s not too hard to get buy-in for a Thanksgiving meal but for any other project to work, everyone who’s on the team has to agree that the project is worth doing. The minute there’s shaky ground, projects can unravel. Getting buy-in from the onset is very helpful and if at any point there are doubts, it’s equally important to address them.

Debriefs are good: Although our Thanksgiving does not involve debriefing, any good project should. It’s valuable to take some time to determine what worked, what didn’t work, and how processes can be improved in the future.

What are your techniques for ensuring project success? Please share them below!


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