The Best Laid Plans

How to Handle Last-Minute Changes

What do you do when things don’t go as planned? Seems to be the theme of 2020, doesn’t it?

The week before Father’s Day, I found out my husband was going to have the holiday off from his job as a retail manager. We were excited because some of the quarantine restrictions had been lifted, and we could actually see and celebrate the day with our parents. I contacted the parents and offered to host a small gathering at our house or to make a reservation at a restaurant. Desperate for some normalcy, they chose the latter as we usually celebrate birthdays and such by going out to eat. I immediately called a favorite local spot for a reservation. Planning done!

I’m Sorry, What?

Fast forward to Saturday morning… as my husband was getting ready to leave for an eight-hour shift that would have him getting home at 8 p.m. that night, he revealed that he’d prefer to cook and have the party at our house.

I’m sorry, what?  My brain immediately raced to all of the problems with this last-minute change: cleaning our quarantine house that no one else had been in for 3+ months, getting groceries, mowing the overgrown lawn in 90-degree weather, and cooking for guests (my least favorite activity). On top of that, my husband was going to be gone for the day, and the parents chose the restaurant. Again… I’m sorry, what?

What Would Project Manager Laura Do?

Now, I’m a project manager. I’m no stranger to last-minute requests and project plans, which often need to change at the 11th hour. But for some surely quarantine brain-related reason, I found myself paralyzed by this request. As I debated letting my husband leave for work without a fight, I realized I’d be in the same boat if it were a client request, so I tried to focus on what would Project Manager Laura do (WWPMLD)?

Here are the steps I took:

  1. Seek to understand. What’s driving the new request? Why is it critically important to the requestor or the stakeholders or the project?
  2. Stick to the facts. Set all emotions aside. Make sure to collect all the facts, repeat them like a parrot, and gain alignment.
  3. Map the path forward. Use the facts as a guide. Stick to what’s feasible and tackle in small chunks. Ask more questions, if needed.

New Steps to Take

In the case of my husband and Father’s Day, instead of arguing, I asked “why?” Why change the plan… the one that has been on the books for a week… at the last minute? The sweet answer. The party would be more intimate, plus we’d get to spend more time together after a long time not together, and in the end, everyone would probably feel more comfortable because we wouldn’t be in public. Well, I couldn’t really argue that. Darn it.

So we listed all the tasks that were needed to switch gears — ignoring that I hate going grocery shopping even in normal times, and no one wants to mow the lawn in 90-degree weather — and agreed on who would do what and when to get ready for a gathering at our house.

We ended up having a very lovely day with our family. The parents said that they only chose the restaurant because they didn’t want us to have to do a lot of work. Sigh.

What do you do when things don’t go as planned, and there are last-minute changes?

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