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Are Moms the Original Project Managers?

As both a mom and a project management trainer, I can’t help but notice the amazing parallels between the two universes. Since I was a project manager long before becoming a mom, I assumed that my project management skills were just amazingly convenient as I juggled the complex labyrinth of motherhood. But as I mingled with other moms years later, I started to notice that the best moms seem to have almost innate project management skills that help them not just survive but thrive when faced with the day to day challenges and complexities of managing life’s most important project – raising our kids!

What Smart Moms Could Teach the Even Best Project Managers

Always Have a Backup Plan

Image via Shutterstock

Image via Shutterstock

The best moms know that if it can go wrong, it probably will. Of course, it’s better to hope for the best but plan for the worst and that includes having a solid backup plan – whether it’s an extra sippy cup, a change of clothes, an alternate lunch option, or a favorite toy just in case little Johnny misses his nap and loses his “pleasant personality”. Likewise, project managers can’t just rely on their project plan/schedule as written no matter how much time was spent generating it – they must plan for technology failure, losing a key team member, product delivery delays, etc. from Day 1.

Avoid Theoretical Time Estimate/Pad the Schedule

Every experienced mom know that a trip anywhere (to church, school, play dates, etc.) almost always takes longer than you’d think on paper. Yes, GPS may say that grandma’s house is only a 20 minute drive, but that estimate doesn’t account for the almost predictable traffic jam, the last minute potty trip/diaper change that definitely can’t be rushed, and of course the extra 5 minutes it takes to load everything into the car (race back for whatever you forgot), buckle car seats, settle any arguments, etc. So often project managers fall into the tempting trap of calculating “theoretical task estimates” that also don’t take into account some of the not so unpredictable delays and snags that we should proactively consider when building the timeline.

Temperature Check Regularly

As a busy mom, it’s so tempting to get caught up in the practical day to day minutia and really miss the important connections with our kids. I’ve noticed that moms seem to naturally “check in” with their kids periodically to find out what’s bothering them, what’s their favorite game/song, who’s their new best friend at school, etc. Similarly project managers can get overwhelmed by day to day administrivia and should remember the importance of checking in with the team to assess morale and see what’s working and what’s not. Whether it’s periodic informal lunches or round robin meeting debriefs, you can’t put the team on autopilot – checking in proactively is key!

Build Broad Networks and Firm Up Relationships Before You Need Them

Moms know that “it takes a village” – no one can do it all on their own. So, they actively reach out to establish their village early whether that includes extended family/friends, play groups, before/after care programs, etc. Moms also know the importance of nurturing those relationships constantly so that when she has the last minute babysitting emergency, her favorite nanny is more likely to come over asap – no questions asked J. Similarly, project managers are ultimately responsible for delivering project results on time on budget but are often completely reliant on others (including distant stakeholders at times) to get the job done! They absolutely need to build a strong extended team to help support the project – particularly during times of crisis. But the key is don’t wait until there’s a crisis to try to build the relationship J

Dana Brownlee is an acclaimed keynote speaker, corporate trainer, and team development consultant. She is President of Professionalism Matters, Inc. a boutique professional development corporate training firm based in Atlanta, GA. She can be reached at danapbrownlee@professionalismmatters.com. Connect with her on Linked In and Twitter.