Effective Engineering e-Newsletter – 10/6/2005
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Here Comes The Bride!
Tom Dennis – President, Effective Engineering [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Suppose someone held a wedding
and no one came. That would be a
huge disappointment for the bride, groom, and their families, but it would
most likely be the result of poor (or no) planning and execution (or possibly
This is a glorious moment in time for my wife, Barbara, and me.
Our wonderful daughter, Melissa, just married Dan, a terrific guy who
we are extremely proud to welcome into our family.
Their beautiful marriage ceremony and reception came off flawlessly,
and all had a great time. I am as
proud as is possible and grateful for my wonderful family, and now, our
extended family. OK, enough of
the superlatives, although I strongly mean every one of them.
As Missy and Dan are also valued proofreaders and editors for my
e-Newsletters, I can’t help but make them the topic of this one, and to use
the experiences leading up to their marriage as an object lesson in effective
engineering (quite a stretch, huh!).
As far as product planning goes, a wedding “product” is a fairly simple
one – a wedding ceremony and reception.
However, as a project planning and management exercise, a wedding is
very complex with a large variety of tasks and events along the way.
The project managers for this wedding were primarily Missy and Barb
(with strong contributions from Dan, the bridesmaids, the groomsmen (including
my son, Jeff), Dan’s mother, and others).
My role was primarily observer, participant, and check writer. Missy
and Barb did a masterful job. As any good project managers should, Missy and Barb planned
the work and then worked the plan (see eN-031023
– Development Methodology: Failure to Plan Means You Are Planning to Fail!)
Planning a wedding has a lot of similarities to planning any project, with
many of the same stresses, uncertainties, doubts, pitfalls, surprises,
unexpected events, successes, celebrations, and hopefully with as happy an
outcome as Missy’s and Dan’s wedding.
A wedding “project” can be carefully planned and executed, or can
be allowed to “just happen”, often with consequences that are not good and
which don’t set a foundation for future success of the marriage.
As the project plan is managed, there are “Known Knowns”,
“Unknown Knowns”, “Known Unknowns”, and
“Unknown Unknowns” (see eN-041104
– Project Planning: Plan Based on What You Do Know, And On What You Don’t!)
Any wedding starts with the engagement. In
this case, Dan proposed to Missy on a ski slope in Maine in front of a
beautiful mountain view in honor of their first meeting while on a ski trip a
number of years earlier. Very
romantic and well received!
After the engagement comes the planning.
Here the “Known Knowns (KK’s)” are first accounted
for. In any wedding the KK’s
include the wedding logistics, such as picking a wedding date (around which
everything will thereafter revolve), finding affordable places for the
ceremony (and selecting a clergy person) and reception, picking the food and
drink, settling on the number of guests, identifying places for wedding guests
to stay and negotiating rates. Hors
wedding cake, flowers, table centerpieces, other decorations, DJ,
photographer, gifts for bridesmaids, groomsmen, out-of-town guests, and
anything else directly associated with the wedding ceremony and reception (and
there are a lot more) also are included. The bride and groom must pick out
their wedding rings, meet with the clergy person to plan the specifics of the
wedding ceremony, and must plan their honeymoon.
The wedding party itself must be chosen, asked to participate, and
accept. The bride must find a wedding gown (and get it fitted), pick
bridesmaids dresses (and get them fitted), and identify where to get tuxes for
the guys in the wedding ceremony. The
list of people to be invited must be discussed and prepared, then culled to
the limit that the reception can hold, then added to knowing that all invited
won’t be able to attend. The
wedding invitations (along with RSVP cards, directions to ceremony and
reception, etc.) must be picked or created.
The RSVP’s must be tracked and those slow to respond must be
contacted (and possibly more invitations must be sent out if more than
expected can’t come).
The KK’s also include some specific events such as an engagement
party, a bridal shower, bachelor and bachelorette parties, and possibly
others. Each of these becomes
separate projects with their own planning and logistics.
For each of these KK’s, the individual tasks must be determined, including
expected durations, who is involved, dependencies on other tasks, what is in
the critical path, etc. Planning
for a wedding is a complex process with many intersecting, and often
As the process proceeds, there are also “Unknown Knowns”.
These are the things you don’t know you need, but when you learn you
need them, you know what to do. An
example may be that you learn late in the process that specific guests have
dietary restrictions. While
unexpected, such needs are easily handled by a call to the reception
“Known Unknowns” will also occur during the process. These are the things you know you’ll need, but don’t know
specifically what they are. For
example, you may know you’ll be having an open bar, but you have no idea how
much people will drink. You can
either plan to have some contingency cash available (always a good idea with a
wedding), or inform the reception hall to cut people off when a
pre-established limit is reached (knowing this may not go down well with the
reception guests). You can plan
for it, but you better be prepared to adjust your plans when it happens.
Finally, there are the “Unknown Unknowns (UU’s)”.
These are the things you don’t know about in advance, and when they
happen, you don’t really know how they will affect things or what their
impact will be. In the case of
Missy’s and Dan’s wedding, a big UU occurred when Missy was injured in her
car when a snowplow hit her almost head on. The accident nearly totaled her car and re-injured Missy’s
knee (for the 4th time – thank God for airbags).
It caused a lot of pain, suffering, surgery, recovery, and then
continued pain for most of the duration of the time leading up to the wedding,
and made getting all of the tasks done very difficult and with substantial
ongoing pain. Missy, being the
trooper that she is, worked through the pain and kept things going.
Thankfully she wasn’t incapacitated, but it did make the planning and
management effort much more challenging and difficult.
In the case of Missy’s and Dan’s wedding, the result of all of the
planning and effort that went into the wedding was a tremendous success.
The event went flawlessly, and everyone at the wedding had a terrific
time. Barb and I, who are heading
into our 36th year of marriage, could not be happier or more proud.
Missy and Barb showed the results of outstanding project planning and
management. It was a true
pleasure to say at the outset of the ceremony, “Here Comes the Bride!”
I know they’ll have a great marriage.
[OK, so I lied about stopping with the superlatives.
What can I say; I’m a proud father!]
2005 Effective Engineering Consulting Services, All Rights Reserved