Don’t Forget the Silverware

Avoid getting tripped up with the “familiar”

As an Innovative Learning Group project manager, it’s my job to plan and monitor each step of a project. I’m clearly familiar with how to look ahead and anticipate bumps in the road, so when it came to planning a simple night out with my husband I wondered why I made so many missteps.

A Simple Night Out

A few weeks into the lockdown of 2020, my husband and I decided we needed to get out. Even though few places were open, we figured we could pick up food, go to a local park, and enjoy our dinner there while streaming a show on our phone. Sounds simple enough, right? Oh, if that were only the case.

Going against everything I practice daily in my job … getting prepared and anticipating the unexpected, we did the exact opposite and winged it.

The Challenges

Our first challenge was the restaurant. Our first choice wasn’t open, the second choice had a line out the door, and the third choice didn’t show the usual allergen-friendly foods on its online menu. Hmm. We called the third choice to see if the menu wasn’t as limited as it appeared. We were in luck. Order placed … check.

When we got to the restaurant, there was a line of cars, and we had to wait 20 minutes for our order. Food received … check. Next, what park would offer the best dining spot? I don’t know why we didn’t talk about this while we were waiting for the food. There were a lot of options, with the most desirable just too far given the time we’d spent getting our order and deciding on a park. So we settled on a nearby location. Park selected … check.  

Once we arrived and began to settle in, the mosquitos from the nearby trees and loud music of a nearby group prompted us to move to a different spot. Finally, we began to pull out the food… soup, salad, pasta, condiment packets, napkins … wait! Where’s the silverware? What, no silverware?

So now what? Tears? Anger? Humor?

Luckily, we were able to laugh, pack everything up, head home, and enjoy our dinner with silverware while watching a movie on a full-size screen. Oh, the best laid plans…or in this case … the lack of plans.

So, what’s the point of my story?

The real lesson is how familiarity can tempt you to let down your guard. I was familiar with the people (spouse), the places (local restaurants and parks), and event/task (eating!). This amount of familiarity made me comfortable and left blind spots in the road ahead. It was a good reminder that when it comes to projects, it’s important to consider each step — even when familiar — to look ahead and anticipate challenges. It’s always helpful not to assume team members know what to do next, resources will be available, and schedules will be easily met. Yes, sometimes everything does run as planned, but better to be prepared if not!

A few weeks later we had the chance for another night out. This time we were prepared! The last question I asked my husband as we were heading out the door was, “Did you pack the silverware?” Good thing, I asked too. The restaurant didn’t give us any.

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