Learning from a Project “Post-mortem”
There are so many aspects of our lives that fall within the categories of projects such as planning a birthday party, a graduation party, a baby shower, an Anniversary party, a move, looking for a job, changing careers, going back to school and many more. Project Management should be taught in, at the very least, high school. Instead of focusing on a project at work, I decided to apply the post-mortem to a personal experience. The personal experience I will use is the last move my family and I made. I do not know about any of you, but I have moved my household far too many times already. We started in the military, but due to jobs and the growth of our family, we have moved 10 times in 22 years. Yikes!! In addition, each time we have moved ourselves!! So, you would think that we had this down to a science. Well, we thought so too, but soon were reminded how much about moving you quickly forget.
In fact, my most recent moving experience occurred in May 2013 and was quite an undertaking. In addition this was our second move in a years time. My husband and I had to make these two moves due to job opportunities and we were moving from the East coast of Florida to the West Coast of Florida. Since we had just moved the year before, relocating from Georgia where we lived for 15 years to Florida, and had purged a lot of unnecessary items, we thought this move would be rather easy. The project was moving from one side of the state to the other while starting a new job and the kids finishing the school year. In retrospect, the entire project would have benefited greatly from the project management principles being learned in my current course and those I have learned over the last 3 years.
I had moved often enough that I was aware of many of the important elements, at least in theory. We still had boxes that had not been unpacked, I created a checklist of packing materials needed, companies that needed to be notified regarding turning off and on utilities, as well as changes of address. In addition we decided that since the move was only 3 hours away we could get away with not packing as well as we did the year before, especially since we were moving ourselves. I reserved the self moving truck after obtaining estimates. We had time line in mind (but not on paper) and family lined up to keep the our younger two so they didn’t have to make so many trips. Unfortunately, that was the extent of my project planning.
As a direct result of my significantly deficient analyses and planning:
- We did not have enough packing boxes, so we ended up just putting things in the car. This caused inefficient packing space since everything was not in boxes.
- I significantly underestimated the physical effort and strength required for such a large undertaking, especially in light of our limited manpower. We only had myself, my husband, and our 4 children.
- In an attempt to keep costs down, my husband and I moved the “smaller” items ourselves in our vehicles. He has a truck and I had a van. Once again, I seriously underestimated the cost of the gas for traveling back and forth 3 hours each way, the actual quantity that was capable of being moved per trip (much less than anticipated), and the time it would take to load the vehicles, drive across the state, unload the vehicles, and return across the state. This does not begin to consider the exhaustion factor. In the end, we made so many trips it was an inefficient method of moving.
- The house that we rented was great, in a great neighborhood and in the good school district, and plenty big for our family. Unfortunately I did not consider that it was a two story house and it ended up that my husband and I had to move all our bedroom furniture upstair by ourselves in our house.
- The stakeholders involved, namely my husband and myself were not equally responsible for all aspects of the project. I did the packing and unpacking for my house. My husband helped with the unloading for a few of the trips. The majority of the loading and unloading of the “smaller” items was done me.
- Despite the fact that I believed I had developed an effective moving system, I was definitely wrong. We were absolutely exhausted and working our jobs at the same time.
Clearly, this entire project would have positively benefited from better analyses, an accurate time and distance analysis, a meeting, and consensus amongst the family regarding responsibilities and commitments, as well as expected timelines. A formal checklist with all aspects of the move project itemized would also have done wonders for the organization. Although we did eventually get moved, it was an exhausting experience similar to almost every other move. I can say that even if I had used the best project management tools and skills, you may or may not be prepared for the unexpected. As we were moving the furniture into the house, on the third trip across the state, we encountered an unexpected plumbing problem. We were running the water in a couple of the sinks to clear the lines, and unbeknownst to us, one of the drain pipes was crushed in the front yard. So in a matter of minutes, just as we had gotten furniture in the downstairs living room, the sink was overflowing, we had water pouring from every drain in the house, including the toilets. We had to call an emergency plumber and a cleaner to disinfect the house! Even though no level of planning could have prepared me for that, better planning could have eliminated some of our exhaustion to be able to deal with the unexpected. However, the planning I had done ahead of time did provide us with a place to stay in case we needed one that night. I had reached out to my Aunt and had a back up in case we could not get moved into the house in time for us to sleep there. However, I feel much more confident that with the right preparation I will be able to plan much better for my next move, which thankfully will not be happening for at least another 3 years. Hopefully, with these tools available to me, it will be much smoother and less frustrating.