Learning from a Project “Post-Mortem”

DSC_0309-2 (104x150) In my professional life I work as an instructional designer and often am required to manage projects which I am a part of as well. When I work as a project manager I typically am pretty successful. However, when I set out to plan my partner’s, Phyllis, and my first baby shower I should have approached the task more as a project manager and less like only a member of the project team.

As a first time parent, there were a number of people who had volunteered to be a part of the planning and throwing of the baby shower. The decision was originally made that my sister-in-law, my best friend and Phyllis’s best friend would work together to plan and throw the shower. We communicated with each of them and shared their contact information among them. We were told that we should step back and allow them to plan the party and just show up and enjoy the fun and festivities. But, when it came to less than a month before the shower should happen we began to get nervous and started asking some questions. It seemed that no one had communicated among the three of them. Two of them, separately had been looking into locations for the shower at completely different locations and types of facilities. Though the idea of being able to step back and let the team do the work seems wonderful, in this case, it was a disaster!

The outcome of the way this project was managed was that one shower became two and my sister-in-law ended up not only not planning the shower but not even attending. The two showers were planned and thrown by two people who were not one of the three original contributors and those who were original chosen became attendees who provided some of the food and/or decorations. The locations of the showers ended up being at the houses of the friends who threw the showers which had a good deal to do with the decision to have two showers due to the amount of space available at the houses. And the friends who volunteered to let us use their houses really took over most of the responsibility of the planning and throwing of the shower. Phyllis and I chose the dates and sent out the invitations as well as purchased the decorations and game prizes ourselves.

If I would have come at the planning of the shower as a project manager, still working as only a manager of the team, but allowing the team to do the work of the overall project I believe it could have been much more effective and would have avoided the drama and stress that resulted from the lack of communication and organization. Portny, Mantel, Meredith, Shafer, Sutton, & Kramer (2008) explain that successfully launching a project requires that “everyone associated with the project must understand the roles and responsibilities of project teams and stakeholders (p. 76). This just simply was not true with this project.

Greer (2010) says that “you need to meet with all of your stakeholders and conduct a brainstorming session in order to document, in “high resolution,” everything you are going to be building” (p. 13). We should have taken the time to meet with everyone at the beginning of the project and discussed what each person would be responsible for completing and how they would communicate with each other and with us. Also, timeframes should have been made much clearer from the beginning. The reason Phyllis and I took the reins and ended up doing a lot of the work is because we didn’t feel things were happening in an appropriate timeframe. Since we did not communicate our expectation of timeframe from the beginning no one had a deadline to hold them to and thus things did not get done.

Communicating expectations from the beginning both the role and responsibilities and timeframe would have made all the difference with this baby shower being planned more quickly and effectively. In the end we had two wonderful showers. However, not only was there a lot of stress, but relationships were strained from the lack of management of the project. This was a project that needed to be managed but unfortunately I didn’t approach it in that way. I will definitely look at it differently if ever I am faced with a “project” such as this one again in the future.

References:

Greer, M. (2010). The project management minimalist: Just enough PM to rock your projects! (Laureate custom ed.). Baltimore: Laureate Education, Inc.

Portny, S. E., Mantel, S. J., Meredith, J. R., Shafer, S. M., Sutton, M. M., & Kramer, B. E. (2008). Project management: Planning, scheduling, and controlling projects. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

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