It’s the time of year when we reflect on everything we’re thankful for. It’s also the season to enjoy some good food and good company. It’s in that spirit that we look at what Thanksgiving can teach us about the value of the unsung heroes toiling away within the project management team.
If you’ve ever put a turkey into the oven only to discover the appliance’s insides haven’t been cleaned since last year’s feast, you can appreciate the value of an orderly cooking space. Tidiers ensure everything is ship shape and as it should be. The same holds true in the project office, where all sorts of routine maintenance needs to be done. There’s documentation to purge; contact lists, operating procedures, and any number of other materials to update; office supply store rooms to rearrange as the team’s needs evolve; and PowerPoint presentations to review with another set of eyes to ensure data is accurate and graphics are readable. Without Tidiers, Thanksgiving would be a much messier affair and Project Teams would be far less efficient machines.
There are a lot of details to wrangle when it comes to Thanksgiving. Schedules need to be set, side dishes and desserts assigned, extra furniture procured, and food and pet allergies noted. Pulling everything together successfully requires the talents of a Coordinator. In the life of a Project Team, there are similar coordination needs, from scheduling copier maintenance to sending out notices when a meeting is postponed. And while some routine coordination tasks may be part of each PMP®’s normal area of responsibility, many of these activities fall to others who are tasked with keeping the team’s everyday operations running smoothly. Coordinators ensure Thanksgiving is the rich experience everyone expects, and in the Project Team they mind the details necessary for success.
Thanksgiving is a great party, with tables full of food and drink, enjoyable conversations, spirited games with family and friends, and time-honored parades. The Partier makes an extra effort to give the festivities a boost, either with a surprise game or by bringing out old family movies. Social activities with similar unexpected perks happen in the Project Team, too, and the team members who pull those off shouldn’t be overlooked. Just taking on a lunchtime potluck requires time and dedication, but when office festivities include even simple things like gag gifts or the posting of photos from past gatherings, someone went above and beyond in the name of a good party. The improved morale and tighter bonds that come from those kinds of events make Partiers a Thanksgiving—and a project team—hero.
Most people can think back to at least one Thanksgiving where a grumpy uncle or a dour cousin haunted the rocking chair in the corner all day, eschewing invitations to participate in conversations and leaving their post only to refill their plate. It’s often a fun challenge to get these curmudgeons talking once dessert is done, because everyone knows their stories are the best thing going when it comes to entertainment. Project teams usually have their own version of the Stalwart—that grizzled veteran who goes about their job without fanfare, preferring to stay on the sidelines during meetings and making only cursory appearances at team events. But those seasoned pros not only have great (and instructive) war stories about difficult projects and even more difficult bosses, everyone knows they make the best mentors once you crack their hard outer shell. The knowledge transfer and sheer amusement we derive from the Stalwarts earn them a place on the list of unsung heroes we’re thankful for.