A Wedding’s Lessons for Project Management and Business Ownership

The creativity and strategic direction that must be brought to the party, so to speak, rests ultimately with the business owner, whose ultimate responsibility is to serve stakeholders.


Just returned from D.C. from my son’s wedding, and what a delightful experience it was. But geek that I am, I’m currently more consumed about various thoughts about “projects” and how to manage them than that nonpareil Barolo we ended our five-course pre-wedding dinner with. (Goodness, though, it was one of the best I’ve ever had; thank you, son.)

Let me explain. My son and fiancé decided that they would manage their wedding by themselves; suggestions from family and friends might be “welcomed,” but at the end of the day they would decide exactly what they wanted this wedding to be — the who, what, where, when, why, and how.  There was some consternation on the part of the moms — especially when they received the inevitably panicked phone calls about this, that, or the other going horribly (but only apparently, momentarily) wrong. The dads took this all in stride. (Really, I can’t help you about flowers and why would you ask!)

My son is a bit of a geek himself, so I wasn’t surprised by the 127-item Microsoft Project rolled-up task list. Nor was I surprised when he and fiancé eventually, smartly hired a Wedding Planner — aka Project Manager — to see that every task would be carried out to perfection. What did strike me, however, once the actual event was in motion, was how they had still maintained business ownership of the process. The creativity that must be brought to the party, so to speak, rests ultimately with the business owner: This cannot be devolved, or dumped upon the Project Manager. Serendipitously, your PM may come with greater creative input than you, Business Owner and your team, can manage on your own, but this is still your job, not his/hers. (You’d be pretty damn smart to listen, though…)

Beyond the standard stuff that everyone expects to go right at the wedding, my son and fiancé had devised several creative additions to the process to make their wedding not only successful but, well, unique and fun. (I’ll mention just one — a compass that commemorated the date, time, venue, and occasion, but also directed you to your spot at the wedding dinner table — and will also help next time you get lost in the forest.)

Lesson number one: Thorough project planning, led by an experienced PM, is essential. Equally essential is creative ownership and input by the Business Owner. If that’s you, don’t dump this responsibility.

Lesson number two: A wedding, or any legitimate business project, while “owned” by the Business, is not ultimately for the Business Owner. That certainly didn’t seem to be the case while all the planning was going on — certainly to me, at least, it seemed all about the egos of the prospective husband and wife. But as the event unfolded, it became clear to me that the prospective husband and wife had actually planned (and successfully carried out) an occasion for the 109 people who had graciously travelled across the country to honor the new young couple, but who had stumbled upon something that most would remember fondly forever as a high point in their lives.

So, Business Owner, it’s not about you: It’s about your stakeholders. Looking for a promotion for your latest campaign/project? Fair enough, just remember to delight your customers, your prospects, your employees — your stakeholders.



Kenneth Hittel // Ken Hittel is currently Digital Strategy Advisor on the board of advisors to FairWinds Partners, a Domain Name Strategy and Services provider. Prior to joining the FairWinds board, Ken worked in a variety of positions at New York Life Insurance Company for more than 20 years, the last 12 of which involved running the Corporate Internet Dept., responsible for the Company’s Digital Strategy, its Web sites, online lead generation programs, and its portfolio of mobile and Social Media presences. Ken has a Ph.D. in Philosophy and Political Science and a M.A. in philosophy and Economics from the Graduate Faculty of the New School University. Follow him on Twitter: @khittel or email him at khittel@gmail.com.

Comments (3)

  1. “Curious if you or others have a suggestion or two on how to overcome creativity issues within insurance companies.” I think that’s an excellent topic for another day. What do you think, Ken!

    • It is indeed an excellent topic, but I’m not sure that I have anything startling to offer: You either have Executive Management that either sponsors or at least tolerates creativity and creative people, or not. Throughout my 25 years in the biz I and others were lucky enough to have that.

  2. Ken, yes, you ARE a geek. But a lovable one! Like Clint Eastwood said in Dirty Harry, “A man’s gotta know his limitations.” 🙂

    But the analogy takes incredibly deep insight, and thus it’s worthy of a quality blog post such as this. That’s especially true for a father observing the whole event. Having just gone through my son’s wedding on 9/28, I know just what you’re referring to.

    Having people walk away from a project feeling satisfied, with a big smile, so much so that they walk up to you in the halls and comment about what a great project it was – now that takes some doing.

    As you’ve said many times, creativity is the key. And that’s the big stumbling block in so many insurance companies.

    Curious if you or others have a suggestion or two on how to overcome creativity issues within insurance companies.

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