Project Management Lessons Learned from Thanksgiving

Project Management Lessons Learned
Project Management Lessons Learned from Thanksgiving Dinner

This past Thanksgiving my daughter Emily was selected to travel to Florida for an elite soccer tournament. Because of the cost of the trip and the fact that we traditionally host Thanksgiving for my side of the family, we decided to divide and conquer.

My wife Heather, along with three other moms on the team, went to Florida with the daughters. I stayed home with our two older kids and hosted Thanksgiving.

Normally, my wife takes the lead in preparing the meal. I help out, but she’s in charge. She’s had enough practice that she just seems to know how to get everything done.

A well-defined plan

I needed to be a little more organized. You should have seen the project plan I put together for the meal. I had the list of dishes I could prepare the night before. The plan had the cooking temperatures and durations.

Each item was listed in order of when it needed to go in the oven. I had tasks for others as well. My sister Cindy would begin preparing the dinner rolls at 12:15 PM. My niece Katie was in charge of making gravy at 12:30 PM. My kids, Holly and Sam helped get the table set and water glasses filled so that we could sit down at one o’clock.

For more information, check out Project Management Planning Considerations.

Running like clockwork

I thought the plan went down fairly well. There were a few people who arrived later than expected, which slightly delayed the meal. The turkey got done a little before plan, but we let it sit and it didn’t dry out.

We sat at the table and went around saying what we were all thankful for. As we dug in, I probably had a smug little smile on my face thinking how smoothly everything had gone down.

Then somebody said, “It’s just not the same without Heather.” There was a brief, selfish moment where I arrogantly thought I had successfully replaced her. I had the plan down. It went so smoothly. How could you miss her?

A leader in the kitchen

But I quickly realized how right they were. I followed all of the same recipes she did. I planned it all out so that everything was ready when it should be.

But, in addition to her charming personality, my wife added that special something to the meal. She wasn’t just performing tasks. She was preparing a meal. She inherently knows how and when to do things and how to work with the other people in her kitchen.

Leadership in project management

Project managers experience the same thing in the business world. A project manager can list all of the tasks that get done and determine the optimal times to start and end each one. A project manager can assign tasks to others and hold them accountable for getting them done.

These are all things that a good project manager should be able to do. But a great project manager has the leadership skills to deal with the human side of things. Redirecting people when they have momentum on a different course requires diplomacy. Assigning tasks to people so they enjoy the work makes them do a better job.

My wife adds love and leadership to the kitchen for a big project like Thanksgiving dinner. Do you add the same aspects to the projects you manage?

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