Too young to understand project management?

Published 6:01 am Saturday, August 4, 2018

She’s 11. She’s my niece. Her name is Kaylee, and as I’ve talked with her through the years, the teacher in me tends to surface from time to time. When she told me in June of this summer that her old above-ground pool was beyond saving, had to go, I seized on the opportunity for yet another lesson.

“Get paper and pencil,” was my first command. If we had been at my house, we would have gone straight to the computer.

“What’s involved in getting a new pool?” I queried. At first she was puzzled, but them she got into the game. As we put heading after heading on pieces of paper, she understood how it worked: Project management.

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Right away, we both knew that adults in the family would be responsible for purchasing the pool and installing it. That’s delegation, right? But we recorded that on a sheet of paper with the projected pool pick-up date and the estimated time for installation. Since the pool was to be deeper than her previous one, a decision was made that a platform for adults to sit on while supervising swimmers would be essential, so that was added to the list.

My niece was most interested in a pool party to initiate the new addition, so this involved a host of decisions such as the following:

• Given the size of the pool, how many guests could be invited? What ages? What genders?

• What could the event be named and how would invitations be sent out? We came up with six naming possibilities, and my niece decided on “Bikini Bottom.” We designed the invitation and she showed me photos of the invited guests on her cell phone. I sketched each of them in turn on the invitation, and she indicated whether they would be wearing bikinis or one-piece bathing suits. We left the date of the party open, and I made copies of the invitation for each guest.

• There are always rules at a swimming party, and my niece quickly listed what guests were to bring: Towels, sunscreen, dry clothes. She also had a list of what behaviors in the pool were acceptable and which ones were not. Believe me, she was in touch with what pre-teens might be tempted to do in a pool.

When I asked her about refreshments, she had a modest menu which she quickly related and I recorded.

She had more trouble, however, when I asked her to calculate the cost of the refreshments and identify the source of monies to pay for them. She thought for a minute before saying, “Hunter owes me five dollars.” I responded, “That’s a start, and perhaps Uncle Gary will make a donation of twenty dollars.” He did, and she smiled with satisfaction.

I know you want to hear about the big pool party, but … There were rain delays; there were delays with not one but two faulty pools that had to be returned to the manufacturer.

It’s August now and things have changed, including the guest list. Has my niece learned project management concepts: Multi-tasking, results, risks, threats, opportunities, and the importance of resources- time, money, and people. I hope so. Will she implement these strategies in other parts of her life. I hope so. To get from A to Z takes planning, whether it be a school project or a new pool.

Dr. Vivian Blevins is a Harlan County native. She has taught undergraduate and graduate students as well as prison inmates, and now teaches communication and American literature classes at Edison State Community College in Ohio. Reach her at