Mariona Ibáñez Conesa Program Manager

Cooking a successful project management

Last Christmas I had the immense luck of being selected as the host of the family Christmas meal. After a call from my mother on 6th December telling me that she had suffered a fall and as a result a broken arm, I was awarded the arduous task of making Christmas food for the whole family.

After calming her down, I accepted the award of the project and started taking requirements. After two hours pointing out ingredients, recipes, manias and tastes of each family member without any order or sense, I interrupted her and told her:  

  • Mom, do you know you are always telling me you don’t understand well what I do for a living? Well, this is a good time for you to understand it in a practical way. We will treat Christmas food as a project. I am going to be the project manager and you are the client. 

Holacracy Agile

But in order not to die under the yoke of an authoritarian client, I explained that from now on we would be a family/organization that follow Holacracy Agile as a governance methodology, where there are no bosses and authority and decision making is distributed horizontally. Within this methodology, circles with specific functions are created and each member of the circle has an assigned role.

To do this, we formed the 'Christmas committee' circle. The objective of this circle was to define the design of Christmas Day and inside, we included several family members with their roles well defined.

In the governance meeting we defined the roles and later, in the tactical meeting, we agreed on the design of Christmas Day according to the established roles.

We held the tactical meeting with all the roles involved. In this, each one had the ability to take and enforce decisions related to the purpose of their role without the need for approval of other role. The only limitation is that these decisions will not conflict with the responsibilities of the other roles and that they will be taken into account all reactions and objections. 

Because as Tom Thomison says, Holacracy’s co-founder 'With holacracy nothing gets in the way of work'.

Agile methodologies

Once all aspects of the celebration were defined, we could start the project, for which we only had 15 days left. Due to the need of flexibility and immediacy it was obvious that we need to use agile methodologies, although there were also very defined project phases. That is why we took the decision to use a hybrid management methodology. It consisted of combining the planning of the project in phases  (waterfall) with the use of agile methodologies Scrum and Crystal for its implementation phase.

It was clear that the client was my mother, because it was she who we should “please”. But there were also many other interested (stakeholders) involved in the project, from which we should select the sponsor. It had to be someone who strongly believed in the project, would defend it and 'sponsor it'. In this case the importance was greater since there was a significant change factor. So, for this important task the chosen one was the family’s grandmother, the 'yaya'. She had sufficient authority to be heard and taken into account with the necessary importance. In addition, lately she had modernized with new technologies and was the leader of the family’s WhatsApp group.

With the main figures of the project identified, we should select the team. I would act as project manager and my husband, daughter and brother-in-law would be part of the project team.

I would take care of the project management and coordination of the day. The little girl would perform the decoration tasks. My husband would buy and be the assistant. And finally my brother-in-law, as a chef, would be responsible for cooking the menu and adapting it to the intolerances and diseases detected in the initial risk definition.

The kick-off or launch of the project with all concerned took place in the sponsor’s house, that is, in vaya’s home. At the end, we sent a video to the rest of the family with the summary of the project and in it grandmother explained the importance of this family date.

The project had started and it was important to make clear the principles and properties of the methodologies to be used during the implementation of the project. In this case the basic principles of the agile manifesto to follow are: 

  • Customer satisfaction as the basis of the objectives to be achieved

  • Close work

  • Motivation and trust

  • Team self-management

  • Adaptation to changing circumstances: at the last minute, 2 new guests were added (boyfriends of teenage cousins), who also had special food needs (celiac and vegetarian).

On the other hand, we thought it appropriate to complement these principles with the following properties of the Crystal method:

It was important that the team had all these principles in mind to enhance teamwork and achieve the purpose of the project.

Christmas Day finally arrived and the truth is that the celebration was a success. And not because I say it huh! But because everyone was delighted, my mother congratulated us and grandmother gave a super emotional speech at the end of the celebration. And the youngest made many photos and videos with which we later made a very fun collage that we currently use as a corporate image in our WhatsApp group.

This year the Christmas meal has moved back to my house, because when the changes are implemented well and are assumed by everyone, consolidation is a fact.

The important thing is not to follow the methodologies to the letter but to learn how to adapt them to the needs of each situation in order to achieve the success of the cooking of the project.

And you, how are you going to cook the management of this Christmas?