Five tips to help working dads project manage their family!

Hilary Kinney reckons parents ought to import project management techniques into the family home

clipboard, pen and laptop denoting project management


Family can feel like quite a project. So why not apply project management skills to it? That’s what Hilary Kinney has done. She’s set up the website Project Management for Parents. And she’ll publish a book on the same theme later this year.

She shares her top five tips for bringing project management into the home and creating a smoother, happier family life.

As a parent, you can apply techniques normally used for multimillion-dollar business projects to manage your family life. Project management principles can help reduce stress, improve communication, and streamline life at home.

The beauty of project management is that the same principles can be applied to different types of projects, from rolling out a new product at work to planning a vacation for the family. You can reuse these techniques, which means that developing these skills is a solid time investment. Here are five top tips that can be applied to any project at home.

Set a Realistic Plan/Scope and Get Buy-in

First, it’s important to set a realistic plan and get buy-in from your partner. What exactly are you trying to accomplish? In other words, what’s your project scope? Once you and your partner have agreed on the basic goal, like taking a family holiday, ask the kids where they would like to go and what they would like to do. Even if you end up going somewhere else, including them in the process will make them feel heard and promote enthusiasm. Plus, they may have some great ideas.

The next step is creating a project plan. Discussing the plan with your family team helps everyone align toward a common goal, understand the work that needs to be done, and stay engaged. For a family holiday, the plan can include details like how long the trip will last, how much it will cost, what you will do, and when will be the best time to go. It may be a good idea to write the plan down. Reviewing your notes with the people involved in the project will reduce misunderstandings later.

Have Regular Check-in Meetings

Once you and your partner have decided on your final plan, share it with the entire family. Have a kick-off family meeting to set expectations and explain roles and responsibilities. Communicate to the kids what’s expected of them, like helping to plan holiday activities and packing their suitcases. Once the plan is in place, have regular meetings to provide updates on what work has been accomplished and what still has to be done.

These meetings are a great opportunity to improve communication and your kids’ problem-solving skills.  The check-in meetings can be combined with some fun activities like a family game night or talent show to help build teamwork.

Make an Action Item List

To organise all of your work, list each task, who’s responsible for it, and when it needs to be completed. Make the tasks manageable given your kids’ ages. A variety of task management tools can help you, including simple sheets of paper, whiteboards, calendars, spreadsheets, posters, and computer programs and apps.

The number tasks and the size of your family can determine which tools work best for you. A simple system, like a few sheets of paper, may be fine for a smaller family or a simple project. By contrast, a larger family or a more complex project may require a spreadsheet or task management software. Choose the least complex system that works. For a long-term project like planning a holiday, consider listing tasks on a spreadsheet or in an app that shares tasks among family members.

Recognise the Limitations/Be Realistic

All projects have constraints, including cost, time, and quality. These three limitations are interrelated. For example, higher-quality work will require more time (and possibly money) to complete. On the other hand, if you want to keep costs down or don’t have much time, you may have to sacrifice quality. Keeping these constraints in mind can help you decide how to manage and balance them realistically.

When it comes to our family holiday, think about which of the three constraints is your first priority. Is it meeting the budget, meeting a deadline, or taking the highest-quality holiday possible? If meeting the budget is the first priority, focus on not spending too much on holiday activities, food, lodging, etc. If you need to take the holiday by a certain date, this may require spending more money, such as if you’re going somewhere during the busy tourist season. Or if quality is the first priority, then you may also want to splurge. This framework for decision-making requires a balancing act and is useful to apply to any family project.

Be Agile

Being agile means being flexible while ensuring that your family project is getting the results you want in terms of family dynamics, school performance, work productivity, etc. Focus more on results than process, and remember that your family relationships are more important than any process or checklist. If a process is too complicated, then simplify it, don’t use it, or try something else. Experiment and adjust as necessary. Find the smallest amount of process that will support the work, and no more.

One way to continuously improve is to reflect on how each project went with your family. Talk about what went well and what didn’t go so well. What would you like to happen on our next vacation? This provides a learning opportunity for all family members, including parents. It can also help foster a better home environment for everyone in the long term and improve family satisfaction on the next vacation.

The main goal of using project management tools at home should be to develop a loving, productive environment among your family team members with shared objectives, trust, commitment, and accountability. Using these project management frameworks can help families streamline workloads, improve decision-making, and strengthen teamwork.

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