Project Management Lessons from Christmas Carols

Now that Christmas is past, but we’re still within the holiday season, it’s the perfect time to evaluate the project management lessons we can learn from our favorite Christmas Carolerscarols.

Let’s start with the positive lessons and project successes we learn from Christmas carols:

1) Deck the Halls
Quantifiable, actionable tasks are listed. “Deck the halls with boughs of Holly…Troll the ancient Yuletide Carols…Strike the harp and join the chorus …..Follow me in merry measure …” The task list is clear and succinct, and in a specific order.

2) Deck the Halls (again)
Sufficient slack time is built into each task. There are plenty of “Fa la la la las” included in the project plan to ensure adequate time in the schedule. Resources should be able to complete decking the halls before they begin trolling the carols and striking the harps.

3) Santa Claus is Coming to Town
Initial planning is thorough and documented. Just like Santa Claus, a good project manager makes his (or her) list and checks it twice prior to beginning the implementation phase (delivery of presents).

4) Jingle Bells
Project requirements are well-defined. By the time the second verse ends, we have all the information needed to scope the project. We know how many horses will be needed (one), whether the sleigh will need a cover (no – it’s an open sleigh), and where we’re headed (over the fields).

Christmas carols also can illustrate some common project management pitfalls and mistakes:

1) The Twelve Days of Christmas
Resources are overallocated. Wrapping 364 gifts in 12 days is an unrealistic expectation, and puts the already narrow project timeline at risk.

2) Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer
Failure to assess risks and plan for contingencies. Santa should have checked the weather report well in advance of Christmas Eve. And having a reindeer with a glowing nose as your contingency plan? Who does that?!?!

3) Frosty the Snowman
Inadequate resource planning. Frosty isn’t overallocated, he just plain doesn’t exist at the beginning of the project ….. er, song. Relying on a magic hat to create the resources needed for the successful completion of your project just isn’t realistic. Additionally, the resource is, at some point, going to melt.

Happy New Year from everyone at Trillium Professional Services!