I like the word Dependency. Although some may recognize its potentially limiting effect, I rather focus on its growth dynamic. That oddly nurturing power you gain when connecting the dots.
Working my way through life with the new baby has made me appreciate Dependencies. Not only because it’s a linguistically adaptive term with a multitude of notions and audiences -as we will see in a bit- but also because, at times, it resonates the strong bonds I get to build with my son throughout his developmental stages. Because he depends on me to sort out the logistics and come up with the best possible environment for him to flourish in. And then he depends on me some more, to instill extra care and nourishment in anything that could support his growth. Sounds kinda poetic, but at the same time vague. So let’s first shed some light on the terminology here.
Dependencies mean different things to different people. For Doctors, dependencies are nasty. They associate them with withdrawal symptoms and substance abuses. For Mathematicians and Computer Scientists, dependencies are rather explanatory. They describe binary relations between variables. For -our dear- Project Managers, dependencies are handsomely practical. They are like a glue holding Activities together!
To just-a-mom me, Dependencies resonate support. Acknowledging existing Dependencies meant that I was able to take a step forward, not in spite but because I could count on the supportive elements I had built during the previous steps I had taken. This way I could bare witness to how the work I had already done empowered me to get to where I wanted to go. Dependencies are no less than precious links between there and back again.
Remember when we talked a bit about Activities in an earlier post, and how it saves the day to use verbs when trying to describe them? And then how we grouped them into categories and formed a structure named WBS to support our Planing efforts? This is where Dependencies come to play. It’s the next strong element when Planning. And, boy, are they powerful!
When you tweak your brain to think Dependencies, you experiment with asking questions about all possible sequences of the Activities at hand. So, once you have laid out all the necessary tasks needed to, say, set up a new nursery for your baby (like we discussed about here), you are ready to think about placing them in the best possible order.
To accomplish an effective sequence of Activities, all you need is to use your best judgement while trying to find the most convenient way to get things done. One that makes sense (causal) abides by the resources you have available (e.g. budget constraints), and matches your personal preferences (like how you love beige over green as a color for the nursery carpet).
Logic, constraints and personal preference are (you guessed it) your very own Dependencies to work your way around! This mental work can get very creative too, especially when you bump into illogical sequences like:
- Could you place the nursery stuff in the room before taking out the study stuff? No you can’t; there is no room for you to do that! So the step where you remove the stuff needs to happen before the step where you place them in.
- Could you place the nursery stuff before you buy them? (Silly question, just to make sure I still got your attention.) So first you buy, then you place.
- Could you clean before you place the new nursery stuff? Yes you could do that, but some new dust will have accumulated after you are done moving furniture around, so it’s best if you leave the cleaning the room part for last.
Asking such questions and exploring your options can help form a diagram of logical relationships that takes all existing Dependencies into account. It can be mental, of course, but it works wonders when you put all this down on paper. Take those post-it notes we created earlier, ungroup them and try to reposition them so that you now focus on the order of getting them done. This way, the Activities for setting up that nursery are not merely grouped and categorized; they now form a series, a draft plan to get you all the way from the beginning to the finish line.
At first you were able to know which tasks could potentially happen together, because they were somewhat related. Like the shopping bit. But after the Dependencies step, you know better. Since not all shopping can be done at the same store, you get to decide things like:
- Which shopping is to come first (e.g. the furniture are not readily available and you need to wait a couple of weeks for them to be delivered)
- Which shopping should start before another gets to finish (like, get the carpet bought before the furniture is delivered)
- Which tasks can happen in parallel (e.g. you buy some stuff online because they are much cheaper), and
- How realistic it can be to reach a milestone you may have initially set in your head (like having all the shopping done in a day).
Seeking and depicting logical relationships between project activities is the bread and butter of any Project Manager worth their while. But it’s equally handy for us Parents. And I bet my hat some of you Moms out there are unknowingly forming logical diagrams to plan your ways and get things done. I feel that contemplating Dependencies comes natural to Mothers, and it’s practiced on a daily basis.
So, dear Momma, rumor has it you have been juggling Dependencies and logical sequences like a pro, but perhaps you were not aware you had the Planning worm in you. So, now you know. But even if you didn’t have a practical way to Plan and organize your way around the motherhood table, sequencing to-dos by relying on Dependencies is a cool and cheap way to go forward All you need are some post-it notes, a pencil and your working brain.
As for you, my beloved Recruiter or Hiring Manager, here’s some extra ideas on how to interview a Mom for an opening that requires basic planning skills. Perhaps she doesn’t have credentials, perhaps she hasn’t sat the CAPM, but maybe -I say maybe- she has been practicing logical sequencing and planning more often than meets the eye. So ask her about setting up that nursery already, although it’s not an accomplishment listed in her CV!
Dependencies got you rethinking your Plans? Good! You got this!