Holiday Chaos: How to Win Project Management at Year-End

November 11, 2015 by FlexPro


The next two months will hold a great amount of holiday cheer, valuable family time, and memories that will last a lifetime.  No matter what you choose to celebrate, extra moments spent at home over November and December are sure to be special.

So, what does that mean for life at the office?

Life for a project manager during the holiday season feel like being at the mall on Christmas Eve – filled with uncertainty, deadline panic, and a ton of moving pieces.  Stress can mount as team members are absent, year-end projects are reaching their completion, and the pressure from stakeholders expecting success reaches critical mass.

There is no perfect way to prepare for the holiday season in America, whether you’re looking to work around delays caused by Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Year’s celebrations.  But while the work rate always seems to diminish, accounting for several key factors can maximize team productivity even in the most frustrating winter circumstances.

The fast-approaching holidays will create the inevitable delay – we’ll call it the festive slow-down.  This week, we take a look at how to attack the seemingly impossible task of keeping the team moving forward against daunting odds.

Monitor the Team Schedule

Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of working with a team and relying on others during the holidays is the limited schedule that proceeds and follows the major dates on the calendar.  An extra day off here and a few hours there for every colleague can add up to quite a bit of missed time and squandered opportunity.  As a team lead, it’s important to be aware of key absences so the group can make the most of the time together and compensate for days when pieces are missing.

Establish Clear Expectations

With employees constantly in and out of the office over the next few months, take time to reaffirm commitments with every associate that has a part in the overall plan.  Some responsibilities, particularly the more minute parts of the job, can be easily put off until after vacation or a holiday break.  As a project manager, setting clear expectations for what needs to be done before clocking out to celebrate is a rock-solid way to maintain accountability while meeting project demands.

Big-Picture Thinking

As the year draws to a close, the mind of a project manager is already filled with important deadlines, next year’s calendar, and goals for the first quarter.  Add in the holidays and you can truly create the perfect storm for a PM.  The unpredictable nature of year-end can require the use of important buffer time in case of emergency to limit the damage done by schedule chaos.  However, it is crucial to remember that for projects extending into the following year, decisions made now can affect the future state of the project.  Keep the big picture in mind when handling the difficult stretch ahead.

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