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PM-ing Your Life: Project and Contingency Planning

Project management is more than a methodology; it’s a mindset and we use it more than we think. It can often feel that once your day job ends, managing playdates, parent-teacher conferences, your social calendar, and getting dinner on the table is a second job that doesn’t seem to pay as well or have a growth track. As project managers, it is easy to see the parallels between managing projects at work and managing life at home. Every project manager knows that a project timeline has a beginning and end, and within those points come planning, scoping, identifying risk, negotiating and diffusing conflicts, and creating a contingency plan.

As life seems to get busier and busier, this three-part blog series will help to equip you with a project management (PM) mindset and translate PM skills to make your home life less overwhelming.

Your Project Plan is Your Guide

A project plan is where the stars align. A good project plan contains a clear goal, objective, and deliverable and has support from the business sponsor. There is an approved budget and scheduled resources, as well as required commitments from end users. Sticking to the project plan requires effective leadership and conflict resolution, while also taking a flexible approach to change. Communication between the stakeholders and project team is key, as well as effectively managing risk. On top of it all, good PMs also keep the project on track.

lovely-family-enjoying-new-year-partyNow, let’s translate what a project plan looks like at home. Take hosting a family holiday dinner. The goal is to host 35 people in your home and the scope is the invite list. Your core team will be your partner and kids to help get the house ready for guests. The budget comes into play as you plan the menu and take a realistic approach to how much food is needed. Resource scheduling means asking guests to bring a side dish and providing a time for their arrival. The required end user commitment is that politics and religion will not be brought up, while conflict resolution will be along the same lines – diffuse the situation as quickly as possible! Communication to set expectations is key above all in this holiday dinner plan: Telling your kids that their cousins will probably play with their toys, and they will have to share.

Managing risk when it comes to hosting a holiday dinner is to have a plan for a situation like your oven suddenly dying and using your neighbor’s oven as back-up. As the PM of this situation, defining expectations of your household and guests will keep the plan on track.

Successful project planning also includes contingency planning – preparing for the unknown unknowns. This holds true for any aspect of life that requires planning and having a backup plan. To have a plan b helps mitigate the disruption from the unknowns and unexpected events. For example, when traveling with infants, you have backup clothes and cleaning supplies for nasty surprises. Or the coloring book at the ready for the demanding toddler who seems to only want your attention while during an important

Just like work projects, it helps to have contingency plans for your home life and your social life. Strong contingency plans should be shared and well communicated with the core team (aka your household) in advance to execute the plan. To ensure continuity and forward progress, the team should be trained for what-if situations and what to do in specific scenarios. Back-up options will serve you well and reduce a potential crisis.

By equipping yourself with a project management (PM) mindset and translating those skills into your everyday life you can ease the stress of home life and dealing with unexpected unknowns.

Want to know why not anticipating risk and failing to plan ahead are key to derailing your efforts? Our next blog post in this series will show how planning is your key for mitigating risk.

Virginia Ryan is an associate account director for Avaap's Data & Analytics practice. Virginia has more than 20 years of experience in strategic planning, program management, process management, and data visualization and analytics. 

Shradha Ramesh is a consultant with Avaap's Data & Analytics practice. Shradha has more than 10 years of experience with project management, business analysis and process design, and analytics.