The Project of France

June 28, 2009 by
Filed under: Project management, Teamwork 

We’re ramping up for an extended trip to France, the first trip that the kids will have been overseas. This turns out to be a great opportunity to apply some of the tools of the PM trade.

This trip is certainly a project: it has a finite duration, there is a multi-disciplinary team involved, and there is a unique product at the end of the day. In this case, the product is our shared experiences of our time together.

Like a lot of projects, this one clearly has time as the driver. Our tickets have been purchased for some time, and although we have been getting updates about minor tweaks in scheduling, we know the day it will start, and the day it will end. Unlike some projects where a date is simply plucked from the heavens as an arbitrary deadline to give the troops (and is often extended as management realizes there is no way they will reach their objective), we know when we will be done.

Again, like other projects, resources are a constraint that we will be living within. We’re looking for alternatives to stretch our resources, to give us the flexibility to spend a little more where we see the value.

Time and resources constrain us, and our intent is to live within these constraints to ensure that we maximize our scope (experiences) and quality (good experiences) along the way.

We know the stakeholders, which certainly includes the family that is heading over there, but also the people watching our stuff while we’re gone, the extended family we will be keeping in touch with while we are gone, all the stakeholders we need to ensure stay happy (with the bills they send us every month), and so on. The list, once you think about it, is far longer than you would initially think.

Critical for the stakeholders, though, is the attitudes of the people participating in the project – the family members themselves. While it is clear that my wife and I are stoked about the trip, we need to be sensitive to the kids, with their concerns about being away from their friends for a month, or having to be in such close contact with their parents for so long. A potential challenge there.

To mitigate that challenge, and to help ensure that we maximize the quality of our product/trip, we’re working to engage all of these stakeholders in the planning. We’ve set an overall itinerary that covers most of the country, and we’ve picked spots along the way to stay as bases from which we can take day trips and see things, but we certainly don’t have a rigorous schedule of events on a daily basis.

A Gantt chart, or even a network diagram, doesn’t make sense for this sort of project, it would almost guarantee disappointment with the results (or at least disappointment with the expected plan). Yes, we need to be agile.

We’ve pulled out the post-its, and we have them next to a big empty wall in the house. It’s not quite so empty now, as each of us have been busy posting things we want to do or see on the trip, roughly placed geographically in the shape of the country.

No surprise, there are a couple of post-its in the upper-central region from the kids that identify Euro Disney. Down to left, my son wants to visit the home of Jules Verne. There are caves and castles to explore, I’m interested in driving over that tall bridge in Millau, down in the south-central region. There are the things that friends have recommended to us, like the Catacombs in Paris, or that little bike shop in the small town of Apt. The list goes on.

We’ve got plenty of things we have already identified, but we are sure there will be more that come up, so we are careful not to cram our agendas too tightly while we make sure that everyone gets the value out of the trip that we want.

I’m certain that we will be dealing with significant change management along the way, and even though we have not put together a formal risk register, we have done some things to mitigate potential problems that could crop up. Our intent is to make this a successful project. – JB

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