Getting groceries

Jan 14, 2019

Project delivery is much more difficult than filling up the fridge at home, but there are plenty of similarities, too.

Good project management that includes a thorough planning process is key to successful project delivery. Developing a written project plan that includes stakeholder requirements and scope of work can prepare a project team to deliver a quality project. I believe there are many examples in our personal lives that demonstrate how proper planning leads to positive results.

I realize that to many people, I may go a little overboard when I go shopping. Not in how much I spend or how often I go, but how I prepare to go shopping. I have spent more than 20 years serving as a project manager in my work life and I can’t help that it carries over into my personal life. Whether I am shopping for my next home improvement project or shopping for groceries, my project management intuition overcomes me and I must plan and manage the “project.”

Grocery shopping first begins by communicating with stakeholders – my family. A discussion occurs regarding meals and the necessary ingredients required. Of course, knowing what my family likes and dislikes for meals allows determining these requirements much easier and increases the likelihood of meeting their expectations. Time to go to the store, right? Not yet. Next, I go through the refrigerator and kitchen cabinets to determine what groceries we already have and what we will need and, of course, make a shopping list. The Notes app on my phone is great for this. After a thorough review of my grocery list and meal plan to check for any missing ingredients, I go to the store.

I prefer to go to the grocery store at times of the day when it is the least busy and I always go to the same store so I know where items are located. This maximizes shopping efficiency. One of the stores where I shop has an app with a map of the store and can locate any item for you. Before heading to the checkout I review my list and compare it with the items in the cart to make sure I have everything and to avoid return trips to the store. Additional trips mean extra work, more money spent on gas, and extra time to do more shopping.

Planning and managing an architectural/engineering design project is more complex than shopping for groceries, but I believe many project management fundamentals can be found in my shopping routine. Good relationships with project stakeholders will result in effective communications that lead to a thorough identification of important project requirements. Requirements should include the technical design requirements, but maybe more important, requirements should include stakeholder expectations in terms of the experience during the project.

Preparing a written project plan that includes detailed requirements that the team can follow during project execution is key to delivering a quality project – one that meets the requirements of all stakeholders. Of course, quality also includes checking our work to avoid mistakes and rework. The extra costs associated with spending more time on a project than it should is frustrating for the team and the client. It also affects project profitability and your firm’s bottom line.

An effective project plan includes a detailed scope for the project. This critical component should include goals, objectives, and a detailed breakdown of the work. In addition, the plan should note what we are not working on to avoid any confusion as to what is included in the project. It is important to include the specific company standards, procedures and tools that will lead to an efficient design process and project delivery.

There are many other elements to a project plan, but investing time in scope, requirements, and quality will be a great start. I am guessing there are some of you who grocery shop very similar to the way that I do – we would get along great. Please share any of your shopping tips, and of course, send any AEC project planning tips as well!

Jeff Clauson is director of project delivery, Shive-Hattery. He can be reached at

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