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The Ticket to Successful Planning 

With the Iowa State Fair in full swing, lots of friends, colleagues, and families are planning their days of eating fried food and walking with the animals. For many, heading to an event like the fair takes a step or two more than just loading up your family in the car and driving there. It turns out, the very same principles used for planning and executing a project at work can be applied to a trip to the fair. Let’s follow an example.  


The Hutchinson family is planning a trip to the Iowa State Fair. Dad (Jack), Mom (Leanne), Big Brother (Keegan), and Little Sister (Serene), are all excited for the upcoming event. To help set themselves up for a successful day, they start with the basics of project management 


What and Why? 

The first step the Hutchinson family takes is establishing what they are doing, and why they are doing it. Of course, they are going to the fair, but there is more to it than that. What, specifically, is in scope for them for this fair day?  Are they going to go for a half day or a full day? Will they stay for more than that? What kind of events do each of them want to attend?  And perhaps even more importantly, why are they going?  What benefits are they hoping to get out of the day?  Are they anxious to re-walk the steps of familiar routines?  Taste the must-try new foods?  Spend time together or catch up with other friends? What's their "why" for this fair trip?  


Each member of the family makes a list of why they want to attend the fair and what they want to accomplish. 


Jack – wants to meet up with some friends to watch the races and derbies at Elwell Family Park and try out as many food options as he can 
Leanne – wants to see her favorite bands perform at the grandstand and discover some new music with her children 
Keegan – wants to get his adrenaline pumping on rides in the Thrill Zone, and see his favorite artist play on the grandstand 
Serene – is finally big enough this year to join her family on the extreme rides in the Thrill Zone, and wants to see the animal contests 


Looking at their lists, they determine they will have a successful day if Dad gets to spend time with his friends and try a new food, Mom gets to spend time with her family, Keegan and Serene get some time in the Thrill Zone, and they see some animals.  


Now, as they move on to their next step, they know exactly what they are looking for in the schedule.  



To the calendars they go, to find the best day to attend. As they open the website, they see that one of Leanne and Keegan’s favorite artists is playing on the first Friday! They all mark their calendars and submit for the time off of work.  


Now to look at the schedule. They find the ticket prices, showtimes, attractions, and food locations. They sketch out the ideal day and make sure everyone’s why is met and ensuring they schedule some breaks.  


Writing down all of this information is key; the Hutchinsons can create a central document and reminder list that helps them keep track of their data and gives them a localized hub for communication. As we’ve said before, communication is key! They can use this information to make a concrete plan and discuss it until it has been made whole. 



As the plan is crafted, Keegan remembers a recent outdoor event that included an unfortunate amount of rain. This realization brings the family to do something that is indispensable to project management: risk management! The Hutchinsons realize that, while it would be amazing if everything went off without a hitch, there could always be something that doesn’t go as planned - rain, rides not operating, long lines, oversold tickets, stalls running out of food, or more. But, by planning for these possibilities early, they’ll know what to do if the situation arises.  


Leanna packs their rain jackets, Jack finds extra food stalls to check out, Keegan and Serene learn about all the rides in the Thrill Zone and pick alternatives that they would ride if their favorites aren’t working. With their back-up plans ready, they feel prepared for the Fair at last.  And now they know that when they have a meaningful check-in early afternoon, they can see how far they've come towards accomplishing their goals, and they can work together to make sure they have the great day they set out to have before coming home.


These strategies are not just for family outings: We can apply them to our workdays too! Project management skills are a fundamental resource for the office, and by trying out these strategies, we just might make our workdays even better! 






Topics: Sinikka Waugh, Project Management & Business Analysis, Leadership & Influence

Sinikka Waugh

About the Author

Sinikka Waugh

Sinikka Waugh is a recognized leader in understanding people and in adapting tools, techniques, and processes to meet the demands of the situation at hand. Since 2006, Sinikka has provided compassionate leadership in transformation initiatives. When she isn’t in front of a class, she enjoys putting her background in English and French Literature to work, by writing blogs about the subjects she teaches every day. Are you ready? If you are, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us! contactus@yourclearnextstep.com








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