Lessons learned from project managing a baby
Blog posted by: Ana O’Sullivan – project management expert and mother, 22 September 2021.
As a professional project manager, I’ve been used to managing my personal life with project management principles – from organizing trips with friends to being, practically, my husband’s PA (so all he needs to do is “just turn up”).
So, I’ve decided to use some of my experience to create a more organized environment to manage the chaos of having a baby.
How does project managing a two-month old work?
Whether it’s a doctor’s appointment or seeing family, it goes in the diary. So, any time someone suggests something I can consult my time plan. On Sundays I go through the diary to prepare myself for what’s ahead.
- Gathering the right team/support network
With a baby, you need the best people in the right jobs. So, I wouldn’t leave the baby with Grandad for the afternoon – as much as he wants to help, the baby will freak out.
It’s also about choosing jobs that the team can do – feeding is obviously more difficult for anyone else than me. When Dad comes home from work, bath time is a special time for father and son. At that point, when he’s missed the baby and has energy, he’s the right person for the job and it gives me a break.
- Having a flexible approach
Trying to establish a nightly routine is OK for some babies but doesn’t suit others. Therefore, you have to “fail fast” and switch to the next best approach. If the project keeps changing (as babies tend to) you need to do what’s best for the project, assess risks and keep an open mind.
- Managing by exception
If we make it to a coffee shop – three of us, plus dog – at some point the baby will be unsettled in the pram and my husband will push him to the park. It’s nice – as PRINCE2 says – to manage by exception, but then the call comes when baby’s crying and my husband can’t find the milk. The point here is to eliminate the “key (wo)man dependency”, or it’s a disservice to the project and you’ll never get to finish your coffee.
- Lessons learned
My husband didn’t want the baby to have a dummy, because it would be “bad for him”. So, naturally, I bought a dummy. Now, my husband is the first person to look for the dummy. If that’s not a lesson learned I don’t know what is.
- Collaboration and stakeholder management
Before going on maternity leave, you need to hand over thoroughly to colleagues and stakeholders. Have one-to-ones with people and make sure you introduce them to stakeholders and the team. This leaves everyone with the best chances of success and is good business practice. And it applies as much to going on holiday, a sabbatical or changing jobs – being respectful to the people you leave “holding the baby”, so to speak.
As with any project, for every issue that happens there will be options and you should go with whatever works. Being inflexible in managing your project is setting yourself up for failure.
Having a baby and being a better project manager
Apart from being a never-ending series of projects, I think having a baby helps you be a better project manager when you’re back at work.
This includes understanding that people have personal lives and having compassion in the way you manage them. Being flexible and not imposing harsh deliverables recognizes that people aren’t robots and there will always be unpredictable events and pressures.
Being close to your team and appreciating their personal reality means that project managers can plan contingencies. And keeping sponsors close to the project – with transparency on all issues and challenges – is the best combination for a successful project.
Now, where did my husband put that dummy?
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