Just like approximately 200+ million people each year, I am a Black Friday shopper. It has become a tradition. After the yearly Thanksgiving dinner with friends, a cross section of the women sit down with the flyers from the Thanksgiving edition of the paper, and map out the "plan of attack". This year we had a "Black Friday Virgin" decide to join the experience, and was stunned by the "Project Planning" process that I go through (once it was mentioned, it got everyone torturing me, as I apparently take Project Management to the extreme - is that even possible??). We’re talking total Project WBS with resource assignments, lag and lead times, the works! Talk about useful transferrable skills, Project Management is the BEST way, if you want to get something accomplished effectively and efficiently!
So, we sit down with the flyers to determine the where and the when, but of course first you have to have the what, so just after Halloween we put a blank “Santa List” on the refrigerator for each kid and capture the “Scope” for the Project. Now as with every Project, we need to manage the schedule (I really do appreciate the fact that retailers stagger their opening times, it definitely makes the planning a bit easier) and break up the Scope by retailer. The plan also must include risk management in case you aren’t able to acquire a “Doorbuster” due to a time slip (and if the item is a core requirement), so that item may have to be de-scoped from store “A” and added to store “B”, so that also must be a consideration in the store sequence on the critical path. The flyers provide the item costs, and the sequence is influenced by the total savings available from the retail price, with the second largest savings again influencing the store placement. Travel time between stores must be considered and balanced with the opening times, and the crowd anticipated as a solid lead time may be required if the Scope item to be acquired may be in limited number and the store type (larger mix of item types available will equal larger crowds) is a strong factor in the store sequence decision. In addition, many stores will supply a map of where those “hot” items will be, many times they provide that on websites, so it’s best to check and print out a copy per store to minimize time wasted searching.
Another major issue to be factored into the schedule is the wandering time, if required. Some retailers have a habit of drawing you through the store in patterns with the placement of the highest demand items, knowing that they will draw you into certain areas of the store that are “sticky” (meaning that it’s hard not to get stuck looking around) so discipline is also required, preparing to add in at least ten minutes into the schedule for these areas is helpful. Also remember if you are planning on hitting store opening times, checking out with approximately 500 people ahead of you will take time, in some stores that could take up to an hour, so that lag should be factored in and weighed against the savings.
Another great tool is with resource assignments. It is useful to get a group together to hit certain stores for the opening times, and divide up the hot item areas and assign one resource per area to acquire enough for the group (start-to-start relationship). Create a cell messaging group to coordinate everyone’s status at regular intervals (regular Project communication) and then converge to get those items acquired by others into your own cart, and then determine what the next steps are (stay together, split up, move to the next store, etc.). This year the first store opened at 9pm on Thanksgiving, so with a Project Team of three at the very beginning, the items were acquired immediately, and with additional shopping and checkout, we were completed with store one by 10:30pm, and had enough time for coffee and a snack before hitting the next opening at midnight, and going through it all over again.
So, I guess it is fair to say that the skills associated with transfer well into just about everything! Everything can be scheduled, efficiencies realized, lead and lag times coordinated and a communication strategy implemented. Think about what you do that you can transfer some of your PM skills into to make your life smoother. I would say that Project Management isn’t so much as a career or discipline, it’s a way of life!
Margaret de Haan - PMP, MBA, CSM