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Hit the Road Thinking Like A Project Manager

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The summer is upon us and, for our family, that means vacation! Well, for me, it means working remotely from a different location. This year, our family is driving from Washington State to Wisconsin, stopping off at the major monuments along the way, like Yellowstone, Mt Rushmore, and the Badlands.


You’re probably thinking, Hey Beth, that’s great, but why do I care about your family vacation?

To me, the road trip is a metaphor for effective project management. Here’s how to manage your project in road tripping terms:

Step 1: Determine the project parameters. We are going to drive via I-90 to Wisconsin from Washington, leaving July 15th at noon and arriving on the 17th before 3pm.

Step 2: Identify the stakeholders and their roles/responsibilities. As we get ready to hit the road, I have noticed the different roles my family members are assuming.  First, there is my 9 year old son, Max. He’s the passenger. His sole purpose on the trip is to move from point A to point B, requesting food and bathroom stops and suggesting places along the way where we can get out to see the sites and stretch our legs. But mostly he’ll be doing what we ask, when we ask.

Then there’s my husband. He’s going to split the driving with me, navigate the map, and help decide critical decisions along the way such as when we need gas, how long to drive before we rent a hotel for the night, and which of our son’s ideas we should actually entertain while still getting to our final destination at the requested time.

Finally, there’s me, the project manager by trade. I’ve set the departure date/time, the arrival date/time, which route is the most efficient to get us to our destination, and most importantly, the food and drinks we need in the car so that we aren’t blowing our budget on snacks at every gas station we visit.

Step 3: Set the key milestones. Thursday night, we are going to drive to Bozeman, Montana.  We’ll spend Friday morning in Yellowstone. We’ll drive for 10 hours on Friday so we have less time in the car on Saturday before we get to Wisconsin to attend a wedding at 3pm.

Step 4: Hold a kick-off meeting. Make sure everyone knows what is expected of them. Ask and answer all questions so we don’t waste time or forget something. Make sure that Max knows he needs to pack his clothes and toys.

Step 5: Assign the tasks. I am an early bird, so it makes sense for me to drive the early morning hours. Kevin is a late-nighter, so he should drive the evening/night-time hours. Each person is responsible for packing their own clothes and gadgets/toys. This allows us to come in under budget (arriving well before 3pm) because we are maximizing our skill set.

Step 6: Follow up on tasks. Ask Max and Kevin questions to make sure they have enough snacks, pajamas, socks, underwear, etc.  

Step 7: Execute. Start driving!

Step 8: Conduct regular team check-ins. It happens to all of us… We start driving. We miss a turn or the road is under construction. We have to come up with a new course of attack in order to hit our final destination in the time we need.

Step 9: Slog through it. 28 hours is a long time in a Subaru Forester, but you just need to keep driving to completion. There is no stopping along the side of the road and giving up.

Step 10: Celebrate the completion. You made it! Stretch your legs. Relax.

Step 11: Post mortem. At some point, we need to get back from Wisconsin to Washington. Are we taking the same route back in the same amount of time? What are the new parameters…and this is how the next project begins!

Tips and Tricks

First, make sure everyone knows and understands the plan. The project manager can’t get mad if they buy a ticket for the passenger but didn’t tell them about it and didn’t stop to pick them up along the way. You don’t know what you don’t know, so make sure to tell them!

Second, have open communication. Even though my parents aren’t driving with us, we are going to be meeting up with them on Saturday. Tell them the plan so that they aren’t caught unaware and can make their plans accordingly.  

Hope this helps the next time you hit the road. 

Check out our ‘Marketer’s Guide to Getting it All Done‘ to learn more about project management strategies!


As always, if you have a question, start a conversation with us!