No this isn’t science fiction. You can create the best family project ever and still have dinner together. I’ll give you the secret right now. Here it is… Set expectations before you ever start. That’s it. That’s the secret sauce that makes or breaks successful projects. It doesn’t matter how big or small. Setting expectations includes everyone’s hopes, dreams, and fears. Giving everyone a voice leads to more engaged teams and a cohesive unit working towards the same objective. There are of course a few nuances or this would be the end of the article. For non-family projects, check out this article.
Nuances and pitfalls in family projects
It wouldn’t be life if there weren’t some nuances and pitfalls, right? Below are a few things that can creep up in a project. This is not an all-inclusive list. What I have included here is what I see most often and have dealt with personally. The rest of the article will provide a few approaches to combat some of these pitfalls.
Navigator – who’s driving the bus
Bottom line, someone needs to be driving the bus. Now you may have enough people that you can have a driver and a navigator. Your navigator is essentially your project manager. They are the person who keeps everyone on track and heading towards the finish line you set as a group. This person may also be the one driving. This person may be you. It’s going to be fine.
The hardest part of this job (in my opinion) is keeping people engaged and informed. Moreover, in families, this can be even harder depending on how everyone communicates. If you are aiming to complete a complicated, long term project, take advantage of some of the free online tools that businesses use to manage teams and projects. Here are a few that can help
Additionally, deciding how you will communicate will streamline your project and limit your headaches. You can get a jumpstart here on the project planning.
Starting the conversation
Deciding to take on a family project is huge. Reaching out to the family to tell them and ask for their help can be terrifying. It has to be done. Think about What your personal goals are for the project. Sharing what you are most excited about and why you want to tackle this can help.
I suggest starting the conversation with what you are hoping to accomplish and how you think they can help. You can also share what you need help with and ask them where they would like to plug in. Depending on the personality of your loved one, you decide which way is best to begin. What I can tell you is that when asking for help, be specific about what you need or want to accomplish. This makes it easier for the other person to make a decision they feel good about.
Use these articles if you find you are having trouble
Kickoff and Follow Thru
Make the kickoff fun! Have a party! Be together with the people you love to celebrate the beginning of your project. Whether it's in person, on Zoom, or over the phone oh, I encourage you to share your excitement. If you haven’t recently, kickoff is a great time to
- review the expectations you set in the pre-project stage
- check in to see if anything has changed for anyone
- revisit your definition of success for the project
Now we get to the follow-through. How do you know that everyone is going to show up and do their part? The short answer is you don't. There's no way to tell if Aunt Susie will remember to do all the things. What you can do is utilize via the communication method you agreed on and communicate clearly and consistently.
Finishing Touches & Dinner
In the beginning of this article, I said you would still have dinner together once your project was complete. I can’t actually guarantee this. And if there is still a pandemic on, then don’t hang out together if it isn’t safe. Other than that though, post-family-project, the idea is that you will want to see each other still.
Once you put the finishing touches on your project, take the time to reflect and chat. This will help everyone process the experience. Document your thoughts, feelings, and lessons learned for next time. Enjoy dinner!