Operation: Christmas Day

We’re coming up on the big day - the one we look forward to for, seemingly, months. I love this time of year and I love Christmas day. We expect hustle and bustle leading up to Christmas with the gift buying, school programs, holiday parties, etc. So when it comes to the actual day we want to sit back, relax, and enjoy the day with our loved ones.

Ah, but that’s not always the way it works out, is it? Some years the rushing about continues, even on Christmas day, and the relaxing with family and friends takes a back seat.

This got me thinking: what if we apply some basic project management tools to Christmas day? Maybe with a little bit of planning and thought we could make it to Christmas evening having enjoyed a wonderful day with the people we love. Ok, maybe that’s a bit ambitious, but I’m going to give it a shot.

Step 1: Define the project

The first thing we need to do is define what the end product will look like. Survival? Ok, well, that’s not specific enough. How about avoiding any major family conflicts? I’m not a family therapist, sorry. That’s outside the scope of this project. Everyone is able to open their gifts in a somewhat organized fashion? We’re getting closer. We physically make it to all the places we’re supposed to go? That will suit our purposes for now. As the project sponsor, I own the project requirements. So let’s make an outline.

This project - Operation: Christmas Day - will include these features:

  • We expect the children to get up early and open gifts. The adults don’t want to get up early. Let’s allow the kids to open their stockings whenever they get up. The adults don’t have stockings.
  • Let’s have breakfast together and then open gifts. The menu includes pancakes, bacon, and fresh pineapple.
  • We need to be at Grandma’s house by 11:00 for brunch.
  • The extended family is getting together late afternoon - around 4:00.
  • I would like to avoid any major family conflict, particularly with Uncle Buck who loves to talk politics.
  • We’re driving to the in-laws on Christmas evening - we should arrive there before 10:00pm and it’s 3 hours away.
  • I would like to feel happy at the end of the day.

Step 2: Develop a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)

The WBS describes the work that needs to be done in order to meet the previously described requirements. Now that we’re clear on the project requirements, we’ll brainstorm about the tasks necessary to complete the project and organize them in a hierarchy. The WBS will provide the basis for estimating schedule and budget.

Here’s a sample WBS for this project, though it could be arranged in a variety of ways.

Step 3: Create a network diagram

After we’ve clarified the work involved in this project, we’ll identify the dependencies between tasks. This helps us to know what tasks need to be done prior to other tasks. If we’re not clear on what needs to happen in what order, the project can quickly degenerate, which means missed deadlines and poor outcome.

Here’s a sample network diagram for Operation: Christmas Day

Step 4: Execute the plan

A description of the important points related to executing the plan is beyond the scope of this blog post, so we’ll have to leave it at the planning stage.

These (very simplified) project management tools may be applied to a variety of situations. Regardless of the tools, I hope you have a very merry Christmas with your family and friends!

Contact us