Project Practitioners > Managing the Common Cold... as a Project

Managing the Common Cold... as a Project

By Margaret de Haan

In that all of us long-term Project Managers see just about everything as a Project, I decided to put this to the test.  As you can probably guess, I'm presently suffering from a brutal head cold (and I am talking BRUTAL - the "just kill me now" kind of cold) that I know came to me via the germ pit aka the public school system.  This is how I see the details:

Timeline:

a) Expected duration 10 days utilizing 24 hour days, 7 day weeks
b) Chance of schedule overage – 30% (based on personal historical data)

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Day 6

Day 7

Day 8

Day 9

Day 10

                   

Sneezing

4 Hrs

Sneezing

6 Hrs

Sneezing

6 Hrs

Sneezing

6 Hrs

Sneezing

5 Hrs

Sneezing

4 Hrs

Sneezing

3 Hrs

Sneezing

2 Hrs

Sneezing

2 Hrs

Sneezing

1 Hrs

Coughing

2 Hrs

Coughing

4 Hrs

Coughing

5 Hrs

Coughing

4 Hrs

Coughing

3 Hrs

Coughing

3 Hrs

Coughing

2 Hrs

Coughing

2 Hrs

Coughing

2 Hrs

Coughing

1 Hrs

Sleeping

10 Hrs

Sleeping

12 Hrs

Sleeping

10 Hrs

Sleeping

9 Hrs

Sleeping

8 Hrs

Sleeping

8 Hrs

Sleeping

8 Hrs

Sleeping

8 Hrs

Sleeping

8 Hrs

Sleeping

8 Hrs

TV

4 Hrs

TV

2 Hrs

TV

 0 Hrs

TV

4 Hrs

TV

5 Hrs

TV

5 Hrs

TV

6 Hrs

TV

5 Hrs

TV

3 Hrs

TV

3 Hrs

Eating

.5 Hr

Eating

.5 Hr

Eating

.5 Hr

Eating

.5 Hr

Eating

.5 Hr

Eating

.5 Hr

Eating

.5 Hr

Eating

.5 Hr

Eating

.5 Hr

Eating

2 Hr

Movie

2 Hrs

Movie

0 Hrs

Movie

2 Hrs

Movie

0 Hrs

Movie

2 Hrs

Movie

4 Hrs

Movie

2 Hrs

Movie

2 Hrs

Movie

2 Hrs

Movie

0 Hrs

Taking Medicine

.5 Hr

Taking Medicine

.5 Hr

Taking Medicine

.5 Hr

Taking Medicine

.5 Hr

Taking Medicine

.5 Hr

Taking Medicine

.5 Hr

Taking Medicine

.5 Hr

Taking Medicine

.5 Hr

Taking Medicine

0 Hr

Taking Medicine

0 Hr

Doctor Visit

2 Hr

Achieve anything

0 Hr

Achieve anything

1 Hr

Achieve anything

1 Hr

Achieve anything

1 Hr

Achieve anything

1 Hr

Achieve anything

2 Hr

Achieve anything

4 Hr

Achieve anything

6.5 Hr

Achieve anything

9 Hr

Achieve anything

0 Hr

Being miserable

20 Hrs

Being miserable

24 Hrs

Being miserable

24 Hrs

Being miserable

16 Hrs

Being miserable

12 Hrs

Being miserable

9 Hrs

Being miserable

8 Hrs

Being miserable

6 Hrs

Being miserable

3 Hrs

Being miserable

18 Hrs

                 

 

                 

Total Hrs.

Total Hrs.

Total Hrs.

Total Hrs.

Total Hrs.

Total Hrs.

Total Hrs.

Total Hrs.

Total Hrs.

Total Hrs.

 

                 

24

24

24

24

24

24

24

24

24

24

                 

Task relationships:
  • Sneezing, coughing and sleeping are mutually exclusive and independent of each other
  • Taking medicine can run concurrent to any task other than sneezing, coughing or sleeping
  • TV and movie are independent of each other and sleeping, but can run concurrent to sneezing, coughing, eating and taking medicine
  • Eating can run concurrent with TV or Movie
  • A minimal portion of sneezing and coughing time may occur while sleeping, but is otherwise independent
  • Achieving anything is an exclusive, independent task
  • Being miserable runs concurrent with all other tasks
  • Eating and taking medicine are concurrent tasks until Day 7, then they become independent

Budget:

Item

Day required

Cost

Doctor Visit (Diagnosis)

Day 2

$20.00 (copay)

Nasal Spray (Medicine)

Day 1

$6.79

Nyquil Cough & Cold (Medicine)

Day 1

$8.49

Tylenol (Medicine)

Day 1

$5.89

Tissue (4 boxes & $1.29 per)

Day 1

$5.16

Movies  (8 at $2.00 per)

Throughout

$16.00

Ice Cream (2 @ $5.00 per)

Day 1

$10.00

Tea (Herbal – 3 @ $2.49)

Day 1

$7.47

Eucalyptus Candles & Rosemary

Day 1

$14.86

Total Budget:   $94.66

Risk Identification:

Risk

% of Occurrence

Mitigation / Management Plan

Timeline slip resulting in a derailment of the next week’s scheduled tasks

30%

If required, at day 7 to reschedule tasks to later dates

Secondary illness (infection)

10%

Return to Doctor - addition to budget $20.00

Misdiagnosis - Flu

5%

Return to Doctor - additional recovery time, prescription may be required – addition to budget $20.00 + $50.00 drug co-pay (estimate)

Depletion of supplies

75%

Send out husband for re-stock – addition to budget $25.00 (estimate)

Death

75% (OK, <1%)

None – let others deal with it (burial costs not defined)

Possible budget overage (without funeral costs): $115.00 – therefore worst case scenario for costs for Project Cold $209.66 (without funeral costs).

Synopsis:

So although this is a goofy example, the point is that I believe that attacking and structuring things as a Project can definitely glean valuable information, especially if you are at a loss for the details.  I never would have thought that just managing a cold costs so much!  But when you think of the level of consumption, it is very feasible that there be an outlay of funds of almost $100.00 to stock up on what you need (I am presently in Day 3, in the worst of it, and have gone through one box of tissue and an entire Ice Cream).  I guess the lesson here is that writing down the timeline, tasks, itemized costs and risks can give you valuable insight and help to provide a complete picture of just about anything.

Be well!





Comments
Not all comments are posted. Posted comments are subject to editing for clarity and length.

Bless you, Margaret! I'm very sorry for deriving amusement from your misery, but "Eating and taking medicine are concurrent tasks until Day 7, then they become independent" made me laugh out loud in sympathy. When they get that bad, NyQuil is practically a meal unto itself. Sounds awful, and if you weren't already deep in the throes, I'd recommend zinc. (Doesn't work for hubby or daughter, but it's a wundercure for me.) I may have to try the eucalyptus candles; that sounds marvelous.

I think you may have missed a few cost items here, but of course we can chalk that up to cold-induced fuzziness. First, the risk of secondary infection also carries an additional possible prescription cost burden, so your possible cost overruns are slightly more likely than initially calculated. Second, there's the opportunity cost possibly incurred if illness is subsequently vectored to others in your household. (If the culprit munchkin hasn't been infected yet, your chances of Achieving Anything and probable throughput drop like a stone for 1-3 days within 24 hours of first munchkin-suffered symptoms. Sleeping activity will be severely curtailed as well.) Finally, your budget has excluded necessary medicinal foods like chicken soup, sinus-singing salsa, and metric tonnes of Really Good Chocolate -- all necessary budgetary expenses. I suppose you could absorb those into the Depletion of Supplies, though. Oh, and there's the Vicks, too -- a necessity in our household. Reviewing the list, you're right -- even mild illness is heinously expensive in terms of pure cost as well as opportunity cost!

I hope you're feeling better soon. Major kudos to you for even attempting this through the fog of war. Reinforce the lines of battle with another movie and another pint of ice cream.


Anna - I'm glad you enjoyed the post, it was a selfish one for sure as I all can think about is this blasted cold! You're right about the omissions, but I've managed to get my chocolate fix through the ice-cream! Luckily the risks of the munchkins getting this (again!) is slim since that is where I got it! Thanks for the input - I'm willing to try just about anything at this point.......


This is hilarious. Thanks for taking the time to write this out. It's a great example I think for small projects - as you say in the text, there's always something to be learned from sketching out some details like this. I would have not pegged the cost as this high either. In this same vein, my daughter just got her drivers' license last week, finally passing the drivers test on the 3rd try. (No she's not a terrible driver, but she did hit some bizarre situations in her first 2 tests along with picky DMV drive testers. At the end of it, when I was mostly just glad to be done with the DMV, I found myself thinking about all the PM practices I had skipped, including not taking advantage of others' lessons learned from the beginning because I assumed it was an "easy" project. There's always something to learn by thinking about things systematically and writing a few things down, even if just as a thinking tool. :-)


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