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Project-Management Lessons From a Gingerbread House

We have all learned lessons from the holidays, such as what happens when you eat one too many holiday party cheese balls, for instance.  However, some holiday lessons can translate well into the world of project management.  Phyllis Schaeffler Dealy learned this lesson and detailed her difficult experience making a gingerbread house: Too many times we put extraordinary efforts into making things work, when they are clearly not working at all.  We don’t believe we can fail when it looks from the beginning like the perfect set up.  Even when there’s a clear process to follow, with a tested, proven blueprint for success and a qualified team, things still go wrong.  Whether it’s denial, unabashed optimism, or just plain stubbornness, when they do go wrong, it can be difficult to be objective, step back, and assess what’s really happening. Dealy organizes her project management steps for building a gingerbread house:

  • Planning
  • Creation
  • More creation
  • Production
  • Realization

As with any project, planning is important.  In the case of the gingerbread house, planning included finding directions in a magazine.  Dealy noted that this was like any other project in that there was an increased amount of enthusiasm and seemingly solid planning from the offset.  During creation, problems can occur.  In Dealy’s case, the gingerbread did not bake up large enough.  For business projects, this could be where a manager realizes they lack some necessary resource. When the first round of creation fails, more creation is needed.  Keeping project essentials on hand whenever possible, Dealy notes, can save you time by avoiding this step.  By this time Dealy’s children have lost interest in the project, just as employees might do in a similar situation.  This makes the production step more difficult.  Dealy is able to bribe and blackmail her children into participating in the project, but that would be clearly unacceptable in an office setting. After the gingerbread house in finally, or mostly, complete, the children want to eat the house.  Dealy had forgotten this, and feels that she would have carried on differently with that in mind.  The point here is to keep the goal of your project in mind, or your organization, project team, and mental well-being may suffer.  

About Matthew Kabik

Matthew Kabik is the former Editor of Computer Aid's Accelerating IT Success. He worked at Computer Aid, Inc. from 2008 to 2014 in the Harrisburg offices, where he was a copywriter, swordsman, social media consultant, and trainer before moving into editorial.

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