As some of you know, in the past year, I left full-time law practice and started work with a project management firm! It has been a huge huge learning curve for me! Anyhow, this morning I woke up with some of the thoughts that constantly niggle at the mind of a working mother and wife- how am I running my home? What can I do less of so that more of what I need to do gets done? If I took an objective look at my time, what would it show that my priorities are? As opposed to what I say they are? As the thoughts ran through my head, a light bulb went off! This is what Project Management is about isn’t it? And I decided to write a piece on using principles of Project Management to improve your marriage! A caveat: this is meant to be fun, not gospel truth! I may sculpt the principles here and there, so don’t use my definitions if you are writing any project management exams. However, I hope when you are done reading, you can point to one or two ideas you found useful and can use, plus if you are a project management practitioner and can find more principles that we can apply, please share with us in the comments below! So here goes:
Agile Project Management: Agile project management is a way of managing projects that focuses on individuals and interactions over processes and tools, customer collaboration over contract negotiation and responding to change over following a plan. So in applying Agile principles to my marriage, I will take out the “shoulds”. It will no longer be this is what my spouse “should” do (process, tools and expectations), it will be individual focused, it will be, I married XX, he is like this and the fact that he does not fit into the “should’ mold does not mean he is bad or loves me less but that he is unique and I work with him the way he is. Does that make some sense? Rather than expecting your spouse to live up to some stereotype or some false expectation that you have, you work with him as an individual- learn him or her- through interactions and work with what is best about them!
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation- so it is about solving problems and not roles- if your wife is working, pregnant and without domestic help, it may not be the best time to point out that the woman “should” do most of the cleaning. That type of “contract negotiation” undermines collaboration and working together, so rather than developing focus as a family, you continue to pursue individual goals and rights within the family unit, till you become a fragmented unit as opposed to a cohesive force.
Responding to change over following a plan– this is one area where I struggle. I would have nicely laid out plans for a Saturday: wake up, study with little one, watch ‘Sofia the First’ (a Disney programme for 30 minutes) and then get to the market, salon, make lunch… and my little one wakes up and just wants to cuddle, or has a cold, or is irritable or wants to play! Or hubby wants a different breakfast than I have cooked or doesn’t want to eat while it is hot… and so will ask that it be warmed and served when I have moved on to other activities. “Arghhhhh!” With each change in my own neatly arranged plan my frustration grows and then I start to snap! And get irritable and maybe eventually spoil the one whole day we have together… So in comes Agile! Reminding me to keep the goal in mind! Since all my plans were aimed at making home run smoothly any way, and since the “home” is made up of the people in it, how about I respond to change and accommodate everyone and maybe see if I can include their need to “cuddle” into my need to shop for the ingredients of that gourmet meal? We would all be happier in the evening (maybe having eaten left-overs from the fridge), or my hair may remain undone, but my little one will kiss me on the cheeks and say “you are the best Mummy ever”! And this makes it all worth it!
Sprints: in Agile project management, you break down a big task into small tasks (level 4’s), which if completed, give you the whole task (the level 1). The idea is also to manage the customer expectations so that rather than waiting 3 months to get a product and then at that time you hear their thoughts (negative or positive) about it, you give them a little something every two weeks, that way you are getting feedback, they feel a sense of progress and you are making whatever course corrections are necessary! In my case, I find sprints really useful when my family is waiting for a meal, we are all hungry, on the verge of angry and I am still in the kitchen working on my “masterpiece”… so maybe I send a bowl of nuts or some hors d’oeuvres first, they are snacking on it, feeling fed… thus giving me time to get the meal ready.
Voice of Customer: this happens to be one of my favourite project management principles. The idea is to increase customer loyalty by tracking the “voice of your customer” and measuring customer satisfaction by listening to what they say (directly or implicitly). By listening, you know what they want, every well done/approval says what you should do more of and every disapproval/correction is an opportunity for improvement. It is interesting that in tracking and using the results of voice of customer metrics- you want to take actions that delight the customer, more than just meeting ordinary requirements! So when your wife says “I like it when you do that” or comes home gushing about flowers that her colleague got today- that is the voice of YOUR customer! It doesn’t mean buy her flowers tomorrow but let it register that she likes that… My favourite gift from my hubby has been something really practical that took away a hardship I was facing at the time- nothing romantic, and I am a hopeless romantic- but I got this gift from him and it automatically gave me 3 more hours in every week day because it saved me from spending time in an activity I otherwise hated but had to do. I was a very satisfied “customer” and you can only guess the loyalty that comes with that! Wink!
Lessons Learned: usually, at the end of a project lifecycle or that of a sub-cycle, a document called “Lessons Learned” is created. Lessons Learned are usually created by the project team and the aim is to identify let’s say the top 5 things that contributed to the success of the project (so that they can be institutionalized and repeated) and the top 5 things that could have been done better. According to the Project Management Institute (PMI) Lessons Learned is meant to promote the recurrence of desirable outcomes and preclude the recurrence of undesirable ones. Do you immediately see how this helps? Evaluating your selves as a couple, knowing what works for your spouse, what makes them happy, knowing what doesn’t work! Knowing what triggers that outburst of anger or bout of depression! Knowing what makes them smile and say “I’ll love you forever!” and finding a way to use what you know to get the outcome that you desire…
Okay, I have rambled on a bit, but that was so much fun to write! I will consider some more Project Management Principles in future but I thought this was a good start and it has helped me sort out in my head what I woke up wondering about! I will carry out my big task in sprints, one day at a time. With raising my little one, I will make quantity and quality time, every second we are together will count, even the tired ones, I will probably be caught saying “let’s play Tired”, in “Tired” we have to close our eyes and rest for 5 minutes… Lol, so that my rest will be fun for him! With hubby, I will keep in mind the uniquely magnificent individual that I have been gifted with and experience him as such rather than through the eyes of the Mills & Boon, Harlequin and what the society says about men! In all, we will collaborate- the aim is for home to be a safe, happy place, where you get positive reinforcement and strength to triumph at life. To grow together and help one another be the very best “us” that we are capable of! And it is that aim we will work towards… we will not keep rules to the detriment of spending time together, home will not need to be so clean so that we cannot play or live in it (mild OCD on my part!)… Of course, like a Project marriage only works where both parties want it to. Where we realise that we are in it to build each other up, not tear one-another down. Where everyone matters and knows that their voice is heard and considered!
Ciao! Thank you once again for reading with me! It really does mean a lot that you visit my blog! Please share, does any of this help? Does it resonate? What do you currently apply? Any project management practitioners want to expand this? Share! And don’t forget to be awesome this week!
 Agile for Dummies by Scott W. Ambler and Mattheew Holitza- IBM Ltd Edition