Operation Baby Blanket

Operation Baby Blanket? What’s that? Is that the code name for a new software implementation?

This CIO is the grandma of Hannah, an adorable two year old; two more grandbabies are on the way.  While I’ve done various crafts in my adult life, I don’t do it enough to call it a hobby. And my crochet experience is limited. I did make a baby blanket for one of my daughters 30 years ago.

So I surprised my family two years ago when I told them that I would make a baby blanket for Hannah, and I actually did it. Now, a second grandchild is due in December. Could I make a baby blanket for her in time? Would I be able to squeeze enough time out of my evening email work session to get one done?

I needed to design and create a baby blanket in time for the baby shower.

I am happy to announce that I presented a finished crocheted baby blanket to my daughter, Katie, at the shower last weekend.

How did I meet this goal? Basic Project Management!

I treated it like a project with a very clear deadline: the October 18th baby shower was the Baby Blanket Go Live, and that date was set in stone.  We all know that project due dates (no pun intended with a baby on the way) are important to meet so managing scope creep is key.

The phases of a project are:

  • definition and scope,
  • project plan and estimates,
  • staffing,
  • requirements gathering,
  • acquisition,
  • design,
  • development,
  • testing, and
  • go live.

So let’s break it down:

Project definition and scope – Every one of my grandchildren will get a homemade baby blanket from me. I made one for my first grandchild, Hannah. Her cousin, baby Kylie, is due in December. Hannah’s little sister is due in February. Decision made.

Project plan and estimates – The “go live” date was set in stone as the date of the baby shower. I put off estimating how much time the project would take until the development stage.

Staffing – I’m great at delegation but this was all me. So did I have the proper training? Who would have known that you could teach yourself the basic stitches by watching a YouTube video. I did it two years ago and again this time. Comes back just like riding a bike.

Requirements gathering – I asked Hannah’s mom, (my other daughter, Ann) to measure the blanket I made for her. I talked to Katie about nursery room colors for the new baby. I considered yarns for a Boston baby vs. the first who lives in sunny southern California.

Acquisition – Make trip to Joanne Fabrics for yarn and crochet hook. Just walking in the door I felt like a fish out of water. Not my kind of store! (It dates me to say that I sewed a lot when I was a teen.) As I was wondering what the heck kind of yarn to buy, a kind customer advised me. She also took me over to the crochet hooks where we talked about different sizes for different yarns. Purchases were made and I was out the door.

Design – Yes, there are patterns for crocheted blankets but I’m not good enough to follow a detailed pattern. I thought it would also take longer. So as in two years ago, I made up a color scheme, played around with different size stitches and settled on a plan. I also calculated the number of stitches per row and total rows needed to make a 32 x 36 inch blanket.

Development – This is where plan meets reality. The real thing begins. As I got started, it appeared that a row would take 10 minutes so I set a goal of 3 rows a night, or 30 minutes.  That seemed doable, right? Email can wait at a certain point, right?

About 9 rows in I questioned my stitch and reassessed my estimate. The rows weren’t as tall as I had assumed so I was going to need more rows, which would take more time. Or, I could change the stitch to a bigger one but then I would have to rip out 90 minutes of work. I lost a few days assessing these choices. My husband, Tom, thought it looked great, so I stuck with the plan. I made an estimating error on total number of rows needed (was about 80 rows in the end) and it took me probably 1/3 more total time than expected. Given the revised time estimate, I told Tom that I might have to teach him the basic stitch and subcontract to him. Lucky for him, it did not come to that.

Testing – When you end a row and start a new one, you are at risk for a dropped stitch. Did that happen? After about 15 rows, Tom noted that the blanket was getting skinnier. I had made an error on the early rows. Should I rip it all out and correct it. Or should I gradually correct it as I went forward. The question became “will my customer care?” Of course not; she’s a baby! Plus, a grateful daughter who is amazed that I was even doing this project.

Go live – Coming down to the go live date, I had 30 rows to go, or 10 days at 3 rows a day. I just needed daily progress to stay on schedule. But with my job, that 30 minutes a night didn’t always work. One weekend I did 7 days worth to catch up. I finished the border the night before the shower. No time like the last minute. I wrapped it up for the shower.

Operation baby blanket was a hit! It got a round of applause at the shower and Katie thought it was perfect.

Now, Ann, in California, is expecting her second baby in early February. We’ve already started discussing requirements. I think I’m going to need some lighter weight yarn …..

What’s the message here? This is not a story about project planning. Find time for what is important and matters to you. Katie heard me tell the Stephen Covey story about the big rocks, little rocks and sand years ago. You can put more in a jar, if you put the big rocks in first. She reminded me that my family were my big rocks. Yes they are! All of them including the grandbabies on the way.  It’s about putting first things first. Do you know who your big rocks are?

Operation Baby Blanket: final deliverable!

14 thoughts on “Operation Baby Blanket

  1. Helen F on said:

    What a great story. All of us with families know how important they are to us and how very lucky we are. The challenge of finding (and making) time is well worth it.

  2. What a great personal story, exemplifying your point about setting priorites.

    Thank you for sharing and IMPRESSIVE work–the blanket looks great!

  3. Sherry Mason on said:

    Sue,

    Thank you for the great story. You have truly captured the essence of basic project management in a way that is fun and easy to understand. I love that you considered subcontracting to your husband. :)
    As a crochet novice myself, I had to laugh out loud about the description of the blanket getting skinnier. I had a similar problem when I crocheted a blanket for my son. I wish that I had considered the project management steps. Incidentally, I ended up with a blanket that was 5 feet long and 9 inches wide; more of a wrap. However, as you said, he was a child and he loved it just the same.
    Basic project management skills are a must in health IT and for all health clinicians. As you have illustrated, understanding this skill translates into success in all areas of our life.

    • Sue Schade on said:

      Sherry, the 5 feet long by 9 inch wide story got my first good LOL of the day! Thanks for the feedback and sharing your story. Yes, project management can be applied to any project.

  4. Karen Dalgleish on said:

    Sue,
    Thank you so much for all the “personal” touches you put into your presentations and discussions. I always look forward to hearing about your family and loved what you said about sub-contracting your husband. Made my day! You are a role model showing that balance is so important in our lives. Also, love how you took this task and applied project management theory. Thank you for your leadership.

    • Sue Schade on said:

      Karen, thanks for the feedback. I believe that seeing the personal side of leaders is important. Glad you appreciate that.

  5. Kyle Johnson on said:

    Sue, I have been painting many pictures lately with the “big rock” anaology! Another great example and yes our families are the big rocks!! Thanks for sharing. Kyle

  6. I keep telling my colleagues ‘everything is interrelated’ and your post reflects the same. The way people narrate their stories reflect the passion for what they do in their life. Excellent correlation.

  7. Love it! Great motivation for those of us who think ‘we’ have alot going on! Keeping things in perspective to make it all happen, by of course… knowing your big rocks!

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