For the past decade, Hilary Kinney has operated in two distinct spheres.
“I’ve been a Project Management Professional for 17 years,” she says. “I’ve been a mom for 10 years. For me, I didn’t really think of the crossover,” Kinney shared during an interview with Lianne Castelino of Where Parents Talk.
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Welcome to where parents talk. My name is Lianne Castelino. Our guest today is a Project Management Professional, and an award-winning blogger. Hillary Kinney is also a first-time author, and a mother of one. She joins us today from Washington, DC. Welcome to where parents talk, Hillary.
Thank you. It’s a pleasure to be here.
I have to tell you, I found the premise for this book of yours quite intriguing. I’m wondering if you could tell us that you’ve been part or you’ve been a Project Management Professional for over a dozen years now, in the luxury hotel sector. And for those in our audience who may not be familiar. How would you describe the core principles of project management that could apply to any industry?
Absolutely. Well, at a high level, project management basically organizes the work to help businesses roll out large projects. I like to think of us as the center of the wheel and the wheel is the new product or development rolling out could be products and services could be a new hotel, could it be a new customer loyalty program? So project management overall, organizes that, and helps deploy it into the market?
So how did you go about deciding to marry those two worlds of yours project managing and parenting into this book?
Well, it was a bit unexpected. And like many things, we can say it’s because of the pandemic. year, I’ve been a Project Management Professional for, you know, 17 years, I’ve been a mom for 10 years. And you know, they’re always sort of two separate areas. For me, I didn’t really think of the crossover. But probably mentally, once you’re a project manager, you’re kind of always a project manager is how you look at the world and interpret things. And then when the pandemic hit, you know, I started hearing about all these parents are really struggling with that workload at home, and how you know, now their childcare providers, their teachers, their activity providers, everything’s at home, because no one’s in school, and they’re not doing activities, and they’re just overwhelmed by the workload. And I thought to myself, you know, this is a project management thing that we deal with at work, you know, we have work to do, we have to organize it, we have to communicate, and we have to figure out how we’re going to get it all done, when often we have limited resources, and we don’t have enough people to do it. So it started as a LinkedIn article, just as some thoughts on paper of hey, maybe this could help people here, you know, five different things you can do. And that gradually grew until, you know, really resonating with people and, you know, turned into speeches, more blogging, you know, I realized that I enjoyed writing, I never planned on it, but it just turned into something that, you know, I really enjoyed. And then fortunately, it turned into a book. So that releases on February 1.
Now, the book is called Project Management for Parents, engage the family, build teamwork succeed together. Can you give us some examples of how you believe that these project management concepts can benefit families?
Absolutely, well, what I love about project management is in the business world, you can use it for any industry, there’s, you know, people who use it to build nuclear reactors, there are people that use it like me to build hotels, or rollout new service initiatives. So it’s a framework that you can reuse and basically apply to anything. So basically, what I’ve done is I’ve taken those principles, and distilled them down and applied them to parenting, and explained and, and used examples of real life. In terms of, you know, any project team I work on, you have to build up that team and really focus on that team work. And they’re certain principles you can use in change management. I’m also a certified Change Management Professional, which are techniques we marry with project management, which is the people side of the work to get the work done. And then in terms of prioritization, we certainly have to prioritize the work we do as project managers to make sure that we’re focusing on the right thing at the right time, which totally applies to family life, right, we always have too much to do. And it’s hard to figure out how to how to get it done. And then the key part that I think people think of project managers that meant the most is how do you organize the work? And how do you keep it streamline, so you know, what’s going on, and everyone’s clear on the work doing being done. So there’s just some really powerful principles in there that completely apply to home life. And in the pandemic, too. In projects, we talk about risk, and we actively manage risks on any project. And in the pandemic. We’ve had to do that every day, right? But the beauty of project management is that we have a framework that you can reuse and have these conversations about things and imply apply this framework to anything over and over again. So once you learn learn the tools, you have them in your toolbox, and you just reach into them and use them for whatever project happens to be going on at that time.
I have to tell you, Hillary You make it sound so simple, right? I think it’s from what you’ve described, it’s really a lot about compartmentalizing different aspects of your life into those two those key areas that you described like teamwork, and prioritization and Let me ask you, because I’d like to drill down into some examples. Now, you’ve got a son who’s 10 years old? Can you give us some examples of how you employ these project management principles? In your parenting of him?
Absolutely. So, well, we got the call from school last week that they’re going remote for 10 days during quarantine learning. So that was that’s like, okay, oh, my goodness, this is our latest project that we have to manage. And I’ve actually sort of been breaking it down, and how we’re tackling this. So the first thing that we do is we talk about it, right, that change management piece of what are the emotions going on right now. And really recognizing the big emotions, anytime there’s a change or something new, it can bring on feelings of transition and grief and loss. And you know, I need to talk to my son about that. It’s not just about the tactical, it’s about the people, because project management is people plus the processes together. So we’ve been talking about how he’s feeling at first, he’s like, Oh, I’m happy, I don’t like the new mask that they’re using. And then a few days later, he’s like, you know, it’ll be nice to be home, but I’m gonna be missing my friends in person. So it’s just kind of like working him through those emotions about this change that’s coming. And the other important part of this people side of the changes, we sort of all sort of run you through the arc of a project, right? So you find out the change, you talk about it, and then I involve him and my husband in the planning of what are we going to do about this? Like, okay, do you want a desk? Or do you want to sit on the couch? You know, he’s like, why I want breaks, I need breaks when I do online school. So you know, I emailed this teacher and said, Hey, can we institute breaks. So the other key point is bringing everyone in and getting that input. Because, again, you’re marrying the people in the process together. So then now that you know, so you get the insight, and I’ve been talking to neighbors, Hey, you want to do a joint reassess outside, you know, so it’s kind of like pulling your team together. It’s like your project team, who’s going to help us get through this time of everything happening at home, and who can help, right. And you know, I just got a call with my sibling saying, hey, I need help. I’ve got a lot going on. Jake’s doing online school, can you help with our moms, and my mom needs a lot of help. So they’re gonna kick in and help out with that. So sort of like figuring out who can help you during this time, and who’s like, Who’s on your team, like, who’s on your family support team. So once you have that in place, then you know what needs to be done, right. So we’re sort of like mapping out our schedule. So right now, over the weekend, my task is okay, we’re gonna write down what the daily schedule is. And we figured it out, like my husband’s gonna take the morning shift, like watching over school, and I’ll take the afternoon shift will work in those technology breaks will work in a walk with a dog in the morning, you know, just want to add structure to the day. So that’s like your project plan, right. And then once you have the plan in place, we need to communicate with each other and make sure that we’re monitoring the plan. And like at work, we do weekly team meetings, right, you know, just sort of those checking meetings. So we do that at home to at breakfast, we’ll talk about the day what’s coming up at dinner, we’ll talk about well, how did it go? What do we need to do differently? So you’re constantly iterating that plan and making changes like, Hey, is that break time working? No, it conflicts with math, okay, let’s change that break time. So you’re kind of like building the plan, and then making tweaks. And then the other key part is like, celebrating when you have wins, right. So really reinforce those positive things that happen to your kids know, what’s, what’s expected and gives them confidence. And those those that confidence to succeed in online school, and just like at work, you want to celebrate success and recognize that that success to motivate people. So that’s sort of like the overall arc of a project that we’ve been working through, as we transition to virtual school next week.
Those are fabulous tips. Hillary and you know, what strikes me as I listened to you is, is really the underlying or foundational importance of communication and everything that you just described.
You hit it. Yeah, that is key. Like I always say, projects live or die in communication, like, you really need to keep those lines of communication open. And that’s a theme in my book is, you know, it starts with the people and you’re constantly communicating and asking and getting feedback as you go through this process.
Absolutely. Let me ask you, could you take us through some typical, you know, tasks in every household, some of which are really enjoyable for people and others, which are less so. So you know, doing chores? You know, preparing meals, even homework? How would you apply a project management framework to any of those typical tasks?
Sure. So, you know, I’m sure you’ve heard of the mental load. It’s a super hot topic right now just talking about sort of like organizing the work at home and who thinks about it and who plans it. So the most important thing first is you have to get visibility and what needs to be done. And I think often what happens is one member of the household sort of keeps everything in their head and the other people aren’t really sure like what needs to happen. So I recommend is, you know, first get visibility and have a conversation Have everything that needs to be done. And you can make it fun, like, have everyone make it a game and have everyone read on post, it notes what they think needs to be done around the house, whoever writes the most wins, right? Just so everyone kind of understands, oh, I do this, I didn’t realize you do that, oh, I didn’t realize that takes so much time. Just have a conversation about everything that needs to happen. And then start thinking about, well, who does what the best, right? So you know, my husband doesn’t cook, and I don’t want to cook. He’s great at dishes. I love cooking. So I do most of the cooking. So we kind of first divide up by skill set and preference. And then after that we it’s it’s based on capacity, you know, like, Okay, what do you have going on? I’ve got a lot going on right now, can you take vacation planning all take this doctor’s appointment. So it’s kind of like, like you said, it’s like an ongoing conversation. But I recommend people stick to their category, like, take a category, like, you know, doctor’s appointments, I’ll take cooking, you take laundry, and if you break it up that way, each person takes it from start to finish. And it takes off that back and forth. Because people think there’s only one part of a task and getting it done. But there’s really four parts, like you have to think about it, right? Like all that initiation in project management, you have to plan for it, right? So you got to think about it, oh, I got to do this, then you got to plan how you’re going to do it, then you actually have to do it. And then you have to sort of follow up and see Oh, is there anything I need to after that, like I do I do, I need to make a follow up doctor’s appointment. So actually four things that need to happen as part of getting something done, when you think there’s only one. So I think people just need to be cognizant of everything that’s involved in tackling a task. First of all, just so I think, just to get clarity, and then figure out who’s gonna do it. And then in terms of chores around the house, again, it’s that visibility. So post it, keep it in one place, like my son’s chore chart is on the wall of our dining room. And I just updated to make it weekly, because because the daily, you know, I was having trouble keeping up with. So visibility is key and, and documentation in one place. So you don’t have to constantly revisit or have that conversation. Like my husband can look at his chore chart and be like, Okay, what, what does he need to do? And it kind of streamlines that communication? And it’s not that constant back and forth of oh, what’s happening? And what, what does he need to get done?
You know, it’s so interesting, because whether you’re running a household raising children running a fortune 500 company, we are talking about life skills that are applicable across the board and across the age spectrum, right. So even if your kids are young, or even if they’re in their teens and young adults, the fact is, is they’re going to be using these skills throughout their lives in different ways. And so, I wonder, with respect to independence, and fostering independence, how would you describe how project management principles can do that?
Well, it’s actually pretty powerful, because what you’re doing is you’re sort of informing, so you’re bringing them into the work, which gives them ownership and buy into them, they’re more apt to participate, right? So first of all, you’re sort of getting getting that buy in, which is super important up front. And then you’re giving them a bit of a choice, right, you’re involving them in the planning, they can have input, so you’re helping them think through and start that, you know, critical thinking scale, and that executive planning skill of how am I gonna? How am I going to organize my day? And how am I going to get my work done. And then if you give them a list of things to do, as they get older, you can give them you know, it’s their choice of when they do it, and how they do it. Obviously, we set expectations about, you know, the quality level of that things need to be done, but it gives them a little more independence. And it’s been really interesting to see my son, like, he’ll plan out his day. Maybe he’ll be like, you know, I know, I gotta get my chores done. But I only have like, an hour of screen time. So I’m gonna do like, you know, I’ll do my chores first. And then I’ll have screen time. And then I’ll go play with my friends and you can hear him like verbally out loud planning his day. So it’s starting to hone those skills of that executive planning function. And it’s just really fun to see the output of, you know, the work that we’ve been doing.
It just must bring music to your ears, Hillary, you hear? When you hear that? Um, I would like to ask you, you know, is your anything well, specifically, what would you want readers of a project management for parents to take away from this book?
First of all, keep it simple, don’t overcomplicate it, like I always recommend use the simplest form of a system to keep it organized. It’s got to work for you and it’s got to work for the kids. Like I don’t want you spending, you know, five hours a week updating a spreadsheet. That’s not what it’s about. It’s about just keeping a system just enough to free up your time like the goal of Project Management. is to save your time in the long run by keeping things organized, right. It’s not to add more to your day. So I think that’s really important. And the point that you keep it on is communication, like the foundation of it is communication and the people it’s not about the task or the process. It’s about the people and making sure that they’re involved. Because the goal is like you get all this done, and then you have more time for this stuff that you really want to do, right? It’s not about doing the chores because we like to do chores about like, Let’s get them done, and then we can go have some fun together as a family.
Tons of great advice, Hilary Kinney, author of project management for parents, thank you so much for sharing your time today.
That perspective changed for Kinney during the COVID-19 global pandemic, as she observed and reflected on the world around her.
“I started hearing about all these parents really struggling with that workload at home, and how now they’re childcare providers, they’re teachers, they’re activity providers, everything’s at home, because no one’s in school, and they’re not doing activities, and they’re just overwhelmed by the workload,” she says. “And I thought to myself, this is a project management thing that we deal with at work.”
That a-ha moment put Kinney’s two worlds on a collision course that first yielded an article, some blogs and eventually her first book, Project Management for Parents — set to launch in February 2022.
“At a high level, project management basically organizes the work to help businesses roll out large projects,” says Kinney, married with a 10-year-old son. “I like to think of us as the centre of the wheel and the wheel is the new product or development rolling out.” Kinney brings experience working at a Fortune 500 company and in the hospitality industry to bear.
Applying the basic pillars of project management — structure, engagement, teamwork, planning, processes, among other principles — Kinney was able to see how parents could also benefit.
“It’s a framework that you can reuse and basically apply to anything,” says Kinney, who is also a Change Management professional. “What I’ve done is I’ve taken those principles, and distilled them down and applied them to parenting, and used examples [from] real life.”
The goal is to strengthen organizational and prioritization skills while reduce stress in the home.
During her interview with Where Parents Talk, Hilary Kinney discusses:
- Specific examples using project management principles to parent
- The impact of using this approach in her own home
- Individual and familial benefits of a project management approach