In a strange, new world we all live in, we need strong project management skills to help us overcome the issues with change that no one saw coming – especially when it comes to project delivery illustrated in this blog by planning a wedding. but it could be any project.
I love weddings so much so that I have a small business as a wedding celebrant (iancartwrightcelebrant.co.uk) but I sometimes help with the planning. I usually take a laidback approach to wedding planning and work with the couple so they have the wedding of their dreams. Like all good project managers I simply listen to my client, create a plan or I like to think of the plan as a map for the direction of travel and then deliver – simple
However when the pandemic hit wedding plans as most things got continually put on hold at every ‘monthly review discussion’ between my couples and myself.
Having assessed the progress we have already made (venue, celebrant booked and the event successfully rescheduled), I realised that for most of my couples we were in an early enough stage to plan the rest properly almost from scratch. I adopt the various project management skills I have, as well as best practice, to plan a wedding. We (the couple and I) agree a deadline to complete a project schedule, RAID log, a finance tool (Excel is fine for most small projects) and resource documents.
A wedding breakdown structure (WBS)
We determined key workstreams or ‘wedstreams’ as I’m calling them here. These include standard things like catering, transport and guest accommodation. For each wedstream, I complete a work breakdown structure to highlight milestones and tasks, and agree best estimate of dates when these need to be delivered sometimes based on online research about people’s wedding experiences (lessons learnt, if you will).
It is always important to highlight dependencies such as the fact that invitations need to go out ideally six months before the day. As a result, for example, a complementary information website (I tend to use Godaddy) to go with the invitations needs details about transport arrangements and dietary information. The fact that so much needs to be booked and organised before the invites can go out so that everyone can plan their own arrangements means a year can look a bit tight to organise a wedding. However, now we have the critical path shaped up nicely and that all the important potential project creep has been identified.
A wedding RAID
Excuse the jargon. The acronym RAID stands for Risks, Assumptions, Issues and Dependencies. So in a separate RAID log I always note the risks and opportunities with the actions, and the dates they need to be resolved by – these mitigating actions are then fed back into the schedule to ensure they are actioned. This log is reviewed at least fortnightly; especially with COVID-19 a long way from being resolved and social gatherings being limited. Looking again at lessons learnt from previous weddings, I worked out what percentage of the previously agreed budget would be needed for each wedstream and we now have a high-level budget worked out.
The steering group
The next thing to do is identify who could help with the mountain of work piling up to make this day a success. So, I always set up a steering group involving the bridal party. I ask them how much time they think they can spare to help with some of the tasks on the plan and also taking into account their skills and interests. I assign them tasks based on this, for example, a maid of honour tends to love all things beauty so she’s on dress, hair and make-up. With that, some of the pressure is taken off and I and can easily identify who could help us with other jobs within the schedule.
The final and absolutely most crucial thing for me personally is to get some assurance on what we had produced. We didn’t need any nasty shocks around time, budget or scope later down the line which, from what I’ve seen, is a huge cause of wedding stress. I ask a colleague with a fresh but informed pair of eyes to look over the plan of action. This is always good practice especially when additional risks and scope not thought of are identified.
Project management keeps us sane
Finally the definition stage. There are always things we know we want and some things need more time to gather requirements. No project, in this case a wedding is ever plain sailing all the way through. however by using the best possible practice it will at least be an enjoyable and wonderful experience – only time will tell when the benefits are realised.
Project management is easy with us