Ah, summer is rolling in and everyone’s schedule gets busier and busier. If you’re single, then you can probably wing it and change your plans to suit how you feel. It gets more complicated when you have a family or plan a group holiday abroad. But you’re a project professional, managing a summer holiday to deliver fun and relaxation should come easily to you…right?
Using your project management skills, you can deliver your dream holiday successfully. You’re a history nut, and you’ve got your heart set on a tour of the ancient world. But first you have to win round the family. Time to engage and influence your stakeholders.
First up, identify the backers and the blockers
Your key stakeholders, the kids, are resistant and have their own ideas. Your other key stakeholder, the significant other (SO) has significant influence; they’re eager but question every single tiny detail. What do the kids want to do? What do you want to do with the kids? What does the SO want? The younger children must be kept busy and occupied, they tend to be straightforward to convince. Teenagers may grudgingly tag along but they want the freedom to do their own thing (without stringent oversight). Trying to balance each of these competing priorities – and keep everyone on board - is no easy task. So, you have a stakeholder meeting to brainstorm ideas and define your destination, holiday type, activities and dates. Going abroad and on a plane excites your stakeholders, so you keep up that momentum and emphasise the benefits.
You schedule the tasks and share a loose itinerary – it’s vital to have some idea of what the days will look like. Travel time (remember to fill up on petrol the day before), sightseeing (the kids get bored of walking so check for more exciting routes), dining plans (over estimate how long stakeholders take to get ready) and of course, the ancient world exhibit. Interest to see ‘a bunch of old stuff’ remains low so you lead with the promise of shopping for souvenirs, this gets some excitement going. You also reveal how it might be possible to go on an old bus or boat for part of the sightseeing which greatly interests the SO and kids. So far, so good.
Your SO wants to know every detail in advance so they can continue to manage the expectations of the convinced but mostly unbothered stakeholders; a communication plan is critical. You agree on a digital planner that SO has access to where you add details and tasks to complete. You share the plans with the children less regularly unless there are major updates: once the transport and hotels are booked, they have a myriad of questions. Yes, there will be a pool; no, they can’t go into first class; and yes, of course we’ll get pizza on the way home.
Ensure things don’t go out of hand
Costs can overrun quite quickly if you’re not careful; everyone is getting excited about the key deliverables: staying in a hotel, pizza and souvenirs, but you don’t want to forget the smaller items like food for the rest of the trip and demands for new holiday clothes. Account for all possible expenses: transportation, accommodation, food, clothes, toiletries, activities and souvenirs. Stay flexible and start examining your budget: organise fixed costs like hotel rooms, tours and flights, and allocate the rest to dining, other activities, shopping and miscellaneous.
This is a holiday for everyone and engaging with your stakeholders will benefit the trip. You share that you want them to get involved and set the children to help research different types of entertainment and sight-seeing spots, just don’t let them book anything without your approval. Your SO has great, albeit particular taste, so you remind them of their knack for finding the Insta-worthy dining spots. They’re all excited to share the options they’ve found, just make note that some resource challenges may arise.
Manage conflict effectively
You don’t want to find yourself dangling upside on a bungee jumping adventure so you hold another meeting (yes, yes, you did ask the kids to research entertainment). Fortunately, going to museum’s private exhibit means you can’t go bungee jumping; you and SO are relieved but the kids are grumbling. You carefully listen to their thoughts, before sharing your own without being defensive. You all know that the exhibit is a key milestone in the holiday and you can’t change that, plus missing out on buying souvenirs has the kids reconsidering jumping off a cliff. You also agree to a ‘do nothing’ day, and your stakeholders claim it will be ‘best holiday ever’. Phew.
Consider the risks
Finally, life is annoyingly unpredictable and things might go wrong so it’s a good idea to prepare. Think about the potential risks (losing teddy on the aeroplane, grandparents wanting to tag along, or hot weather ruining your plans to visit the Acropolis) and how you might want to respond to them (teddy must always remain tied into the backpack, schedule time for grandparents the following weekend and find out where the nearest sunhat shop is). It will massively reduce your stress levels to be prepared.
Now then, things are in place, somewhat (make sure to locate key documents like passports), and you can get even more excited about your upcoming holidays. Don’t suddenly start thinking about the projects you’ll leave behind at work. Are you one of those people who just can’t escape the day job? It’s probably best that you do, here are some tips on how to unwind for summer when you’re a project manager.
So, let us know, do you project manage your time off, or do you prefer to go with the flow?