Once again I am confronted with an entire realm of information I did not even realize existed. Sometimes, I have to wonder if I have existed in another dimension my entire life. I realize it is more likely that I have attenuated to other aspects of life that just happened to exclude concepts such as Project Management. The sad part is that Project Management ought to be taught beginning in elementary school. Seriously!
There are so many aspects of our lives that fall within the categories of projects such as planning a wedding, a funeral, a 50th birthday party, an Anniversary party, a move (local or otherwise), looking for a job, changing careers, and on and on. The list is probably never ending. Rather than focus on a typical academic or business project I thought it might be interesting to apply the post-mortem to a personal experience such as one I just mentioned. For instance, moving is a great project to dissect retrospectively. I do not know about any of you, but I have moved my household far too many times already. I am not in not in the military, but apparently the national average is moving about once every few years. I am pretty much on par with that.
In fact, my most recent moving experience occurred mid-2010 and was quite an undertaking. My husband, father, son, and I combined two entirely separate households and relocated back to our home town in Orange County, California. My father had approximately 55+ years of accumulated artifacts representing his and my mother’s lives together. My mother had passed in December 2009 and it seemed right to bring him with us. My husband, son and I had accumulated 11 years of artifacts (polite ways of saying too much stuff) representing our lives together. The project was moving from two households into one townhome without losing our minds. In retrospect, the entire project would have benefited greatly from the project management principles being learned in my current course.
I had moved often enough that I was aware of many of the important elements, at least in theory. I created a handwritten checklist of packing materials that would be needed, companies that needed to be notified regarding turning off and on utilities, as well as changes of address. I had the presence of mind to schedule a moving company after obtaining estimates. There was a rudimentary time line in mind (but not on paper). Unfortunately, that was the extent of my project plan.
As a direct result of my significantly deficient analyses and planning:
1. I did not have the correct number of boxes, nor did I have the right sizes for the various items needed. This required multiple trips to the packing store for additional materials. This also cost significantly more because I was unable to take advantage of the bulk pricing.
2. I significantly underestimated the physical effort and strength required for such a large undertaking, especially in light of our limited manpower.
3. In an attempt to keep costs down, my father and I moved the “smaller” items ourselves in our vehicles. He has a large truck and I have a small SUV. My husband also has a van. Once again, I seriously underestimated the cost of the gas for traveling back and forth 60 miles, 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 in traffic, unload the vehicles, and return in traffic. This does not begin to consider the exhaustion factor. In the end, we made so many trips it was an inefficient method of moving. In addition, apparently others noticed we were moving because some of our belongings were stolen while we were between trips.
4. I significantly underestimated the cost of the movers, who took the slow boat from China to get to the new location. They also took an extraordinary amount of time loading and unloading. In addition, the charged an excessive amount for packing materials that they “deemed necessary.”
5. I did not measure the dimensions of my furniture, draw an appropriate schematic of the new house and was unhappily surprised to discover that several pieces of furniture could not be accommodated through the stairway, including my bed supports.
6. The stakeholders involved, namely my father, my husband and myself were not equally responsible for all aspects of the project. I did the packing and unpacking for my house, and helped my father with some of his. My husband helped with some of the unloaded for a few of the trips. The majority of the loading and unloading of the “smaller” items was done my father and me. I should have had a written contract with my husband regarding his responsibilities!
7. Despite the fact that I believed I had developed an effective labeling system for the boxes, it turns out I was seriously incorrect. It took us weeks and weeks to sift through the majority of the belongings. In fact, there are still some “miscellaneous boxes” in the extra bedroom and in the garage.
8. In addition, our plans for where to put what were also way off base. Several items were left on the patio and ended up getting ruined in the rain because none of the stakeholders would take the responsibility to move them to a more appropriate location.
Clearly, this entire project would have positively benefited from better analyses, an accurate budget, 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. The labeling of the boxes could have been standardized, especially in light of the merging of two homes. Although we did eventually get moved, it was a nightmare experience similar to almost every other move. However, I feel much more confident that with the right preparation I will be able to plan much better for my next move, which unfortunately will be occurring within the next year. Hopefully, with these tools available to me, it will be much smoother and less frustrating.