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Project Management Can Be Applied Anywhere – An Everyday Analogy
By Chris Ramsay

I lately figured out a good way to determine if someone has decent project management skills (and no, this is not a perfect test).

Have that person cook you a meal (and not just any meal, a meal consisting of a warm appetizer and a main course that has a couple sides requiring varying cooking times). This may seem simple to some (who have cooked a lot in the past) but there truly is something to pulling a meal like this off – serving it hot to your guests, not having long delays from appetizer to main, and not burning the whole thing. This really does become a project management art form – think of it, you need to:

  • Do your research on the project: Find recipes that have worked for others in the past – or create your own if you have enough experience.
  • Create a budget: Determine how much you are willing to spend on this dinner depending on how close the friends are that are coming, or the amount of people coming.
  • Attain all the necessary resources: Buy ingredients from potentially multiple locations, pick up wine, clean the required pots/pans, potentially source a friend with advice/tips, etc.
  • Create a project schedule: Determine when guests will arrive and build your Gantt Chart back from there based on your prep time, cooking time and most importantly gaps in the schedule where nothing HAS to happen so that you can save yourself if something unexpected happens – which it always does.
  • Perform, Monitor, Adjust: Follow through on your schedule and monitor it like crazy to ensure that food is cooking as expected, and if not, make adjustments along the way to get it back on schedule.
  • Risk Management: If something goes wrong, gets burnt, whatever, how do you curb your audiences expectations – did you pick up extra wine just in case?
  • Risk Mitigation: If things go horribly wrong, do you have the speed dial of the local pizza place?
  • Post Mortem: Did your friends enjoy the meal, did you enjoy the meal, did they finish their food, etc…

The thing that I find interesting about this analogy is that it still is applicable to novice PMs/Chefs and experts. The more junior you are, the more up front work you will require. The more senior you are, the less time you will need on prep, and the more you can rely on experience. Happy cooking.

Chris Ramsay is a Senior Project Manager at Critical Mass, an interactive Marketing Agency in Calgary, Alberta. For the past 3.5 years he has project managed online brand campaigns, site redesigns and user experience projects for some of the most successful brands in consumer goods & services. Chris has 8 years of combined marketing and project management experience in both Europe and North America and holds a Bachelor of Commerce from the Haskayne School of Business in Calgary. Chris runs Ramsay Says, a professional blog musing about Project Management and other work-related topics.

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