There are lots of ways project management is useful in our day to day lives, both at work and at home. We believe it is a powerful tool and not something reserved just for those with Project Manager in their title. Project Management is something we can all practice. So, we want to highlight five specific ways that leveraging project management could save your vacation.
1. Goal Alignment.
A critical success factor of good project management is to ensure that we are all aligned in our goals. “What are we doing and why are we doing it? Let’s take an analogy of a family trip to Minnesota. If mom wants to go on vacation to escape the office for a few days, dad wants to get away from the household chores, one teenager wants to do some heavy duty shopping, and the other wants to enjoy thrill rides at an amusement park, Minneapolis might be a fair destination, but we are still going to want to be sure that everyone understands what we are doing and why.
- Are we going on a family vacation to spend family time together? In that case, each of us may not be doing what we want to do.
- Are we going on vacation or doing a stay-cation with a tight budget in mind? In that case we should probably make a few of our own meals instead of always eating out, which might put burden on the meal provider.
- Are we going on vacation to get some R & R? Then packing the schedule with non-stop activities might be counterproductive.
We may each be going in to this vacation with different expectations about what it looks like. We will have a much better time if we talk about those expectations and reach some agreement before the trip begins.
2. Risk Mitigation Strategies.
There’s always extra risk with travel. Someone could get sick or injured before we leave. Or something could happen while we are away in unfamiliar territory. Or our best laid plans might fall through. When we look forward to vacation as much as we do, we want to be sure to avoid these risks as much as we can. Good risk mitigation strategies from project management help us prioritize our likely risks as well as those that might cause us the most pain and help us identify risk responses for each.
- You could simply say “It could snow in Minnesota in March.” Alternatively, you could write a risk response: If the weather in Minnesota prevents us from heading north to the Twin Cities, then… [This is where you add in a backup plan] we will head to Kansas City instead, or we will delay our trip north by one day.
Preparing for risk by addressing them as “If… Then…” statements will ensure we have a plan in place, and that we can avoid as much pain as possible.
3. Role Clarity.
One of the leading causes of project failure occurs when we forget to define and clarify who is doing what and then equip those folks with everything they need to do get the job done. As you are planning your vacation, consider the strengths you each bring to the table and play to those strengths with role assignment.
- Is one of you an avid packer and expert organizer? Then let that person be in charge of making sure we bring all the right stuff and it is packed in as few bags as possible.
- Is one of you consistently expressing a strong preference for being behind the wheel? Then maybe that person is the designated driver.
- Is one of you supremely attentive to schedule? Then let that person be in charge of your itinerary.
Assigning the right people to the right role and being open about how their role helps the group as a whole, will help us all have a better vacation.
4. Quality Control. Every good project manager knows the quality that is expected out of the project, is not just the quality of the end product. The quality of the experience, the budget, the communications, and the stakeholder management all play a critical role in the quality of the end result.
- We have to start by identifying our critical success factors for a successful vacation.
- Will success be based on the amount of bickering in the car?
- Or the levels of exhaustion at the end of the trip?
- Or the rate at which we spend our vacation money?
- From there we can decide what success looks like for each factor.
- Then we can settle on how we will measure our success factors.
- And then we can create a plan for staying on track throughout the trip.
Planning for quality control will help ensure that everyone who participates gets what they were hoping for out of the vacation.
5. Continuous Improvement. Most project managers are familiar with project review. In the military it is referred to as an after-action review. In agile it is referred to as a retrospective. Maybe you know it as a “postmortem” or a “lessons learned”. Regardless of what you call it, the idea is to take a few moments after you’ve returned home to review what went well and what we would do differently.
- Were we all in alignment on our goals? Did we all know what we were doing and why?
- Did our risk mitigation pay off? Did we encounter any unexpected risks that we should plan for next time?
- Were we all clear on our roles? Should anyone have a different role next time?
- What was the quality of our experience? Are there any new critical success factors to watch for next time?
Thinking through your plan and adjusting for things that could have been better will leave you well prepared for the next vacation. Now, you just have to decided where you’re headed!
Vacation planning is just one of so many tactical applications for project management in our day-to-day lives. Give it a try and let us know how it goes! We are here to help!