While I am relatively new to the world of web development, I am not new to the concept of project management. From summer camp units to international grants, I have been managing projects of various sizes for the past ten years. However, I never particularly enjoyed project management. I preferred the project planning phase and thought of project management as a necessary evil. To be perfectly honest, I was such an introvert that I did not enjoy all of the communication and teamwork involved in project management.
Recently, I have started managing some projects for Paiyak Development. While doing so, I have realized that I no longer dread all of the communication involved in project management. In fact, I look forward to it. I wondered what had changed. Then, I realized that there were several aspects of project management that raising a toddler has helped me embrace. Below are just three of the things that my toddler has taught me about project management.
Say Things As Simply As Possible
My toddler doesn’t understand complex directions. At the moment, he can understand two step directions, such as, “Pick up your shoes and put them by the door.” However, if I want him to listen to me every time, I know I should simplify the directions as much as possible. Usually this means breaking them down into single steps.
Obviously my team members and clients can understand more complex communication than my toddler. However, every time I use more complex communication, there is the possibility of a misunderstanding. That is why instead of writing in paragraphs, I communicate in numbered lists or bullet points. Each point should have only one controlling thought. Otherwise, my project’s “shoes” are likely going to end up in the kitchen, not by the door.
While my team members and clients can definitely go through a paragraph and find all of the questions and/or directions I am giving them, why make things more difficult than they need to be? I realize that adults often have multiple things going on at once and risk getting distracted more easily than my toddler.
Be Prepared to Repeat Things Ten Times
With my toddler, I know that I may have to repeat things multiple times. Not just commands and requests, but questions and answers, too. Sometimes my toddler simply wants the extra security that comes from me repeating things. Other times, he is not quite ready to transition to a new activity and needs several reminders before he finally is.
Both team members and clients also have similar repetition needs. For example, if I bring up a question about a certain aspect of design, but the client is still focused on another aspect, they may not fully answer my questions. I may need to address their questions and then repeat myself. This is where my personal project checklists come into play. Instead of getting frustrated when a piece of information falls through, I simply keep rephrasing and repeating my questions until all of the project points have been addressed on both sides.
Anticipate Project Needs
My toddler is a fun, interesting, lovable person, until he becomes tired or hungry. Then he gets sullen, uncommunicative, and, occasionally, hostile. I have learned that I can avoid most tantrums by anticipating his needs. Feed him before he gets hungry. Take him to the bathroom before he pees his pants. And ALWAYS help him sleep before he gets too tired.
The needs of a project may not be as clear and simple as a toddler’s needs. However, taking the time to anticipate needs and problems can make the entire project run more smoothly. From forming schedules to working with individuals on both ends of the project, management is probably 50% communication and 50% anticipating needs and finding ways to satisfy them before they create problems.
While raising a toddler is not always like managing projects (There is a reason why I work in web development and not daycare), there are definitely some similarities. The patience and resilience that a parent learns while raising a toddler can make project management a walk in the park.