What Project Management and Pregnancy have in Common

via Photoxpress

Let me start by saying that I am five months pregnant. For those of you who haven’t had the good fortune of being around a pregnant woman there are three things you should know:

  1. My hormones make my moods go from up to down faster than the best roller coaster. I love you one minute and think you are a waste of space the next simply because you forget to do something.
  2. This is MY baby and although you mean well with whatever advice and opinions you have, I know just how things need to be to be for MY child. Please just do things exactly as I ask, and nobody will get hurt.
  3. Perfection is my goal, and I spend hours and days fretting over every possible horrible scenario that could happen while I am pregnant, once I am a parent, etc. I can even envision the bad choices my daughter might make in her college years (assuming that she screws up from time to time like her mom did).

I started thinking about this the other night while I couldn’t sleep (insomnia is another great pregnancy side effect), and I realized that being pregnant isn’t all that different from being a project manager.

  1. I love my project teams. They are the group most invested in and important to making any project goals succeed. That being said, as a project manager I am emotionally connected to my project. Typically I spend 50-60 hours a week for 12 or more months trying to achieve a goal that I think we all share. If I suddenly find out that I have a team member who is slacking off, I get personally offended at the lack of dedication, commitment, and determination to make sure we all succeed. This is a team effort, and we are only as strong as the weakest link. As the project manager, it is my job to rally the troops and motivate any slackers so we do not all suffer. (And no, I am not suggesting that project managers are going to burst into irrational tears over someone missing a deadline the way a pregnant woman might if her crib didn’t arrive on time, but you get the idea.)
  2. My project is my baby. I invest my time and energies into making sure the project meets the goals that I envision for it. Most weeks I spend more time on this project than I spend with my family (unless you count hours when we are all asleep). This means that I know what needs to be done to achieve our goals and meet the client’s objectives. Once requirements are finalized, if I ask you to do something, I need you to do it—not question whether or not the client should want it to be done. Feel free to question any risks, the method we are using to solve some problems as there may be other solutions, but ultimately, if the answer is that I need you to do Y in Z way, then please just do it exactly as I ask- and nobody will get hurt.
  3. Perfection is my goal, and I spend hours a days fretting over every possible risk scenario that could happen to this project. While the project is in initiation and planning (consider this the pregnancy phase), there are all kinds of things that can happen. Members of my team could quit, requirements could change, budgets could be cut, etc. Once our project gets through planning, and the baby is born (although very infantile in nature), I can foresee even more challenges. Initial coding of our solution could prove that our planned architecture fails. The client could add requirements and expectations. Competitors could announce similar products going to market and cause our timelines to shrink to beat them to the market. Even after sign off, when my baby project is mature and operational (think college kid), there are bound to be issues that can haunt me. My new process might not be scalable on an international basis. Changes in technology or the client’s organization could quickly require a new version of the project to start.

The more I thought of the similarities the other night the more I realized that it was good that pregnancy and project management have commonalities. I don’t want my daughter to ever grow up so much that she is not my daughter, and I cannot enjoy and celebrate being part of her life. Likewise I don’t want to have my projects fade from my memory, because in each one there are triumphs to celebrate and lessons I can learn and take with me to future work.

Now if only projects could be taught to clean up after themselves, say please and thank you, and give hugs…

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