As I watch my mother-in-law prepare dinner to celebrate Chinese New Year, (technically it is the lunar new year since it is not just the Chinese who celebrate it), my mind turns to that project management tool – “The Calendar”.
Today is the first day of the year of the Ox.
The Calendar was probably the first tool available to the project manager/priest/shaman.
Understanding how the seasons worked and being able to predict their cycles was a vital role in ensuring the prosperity or indeed the survival of your tribe or community.
Our Neolithic ancestors may have lacked our sophisticated scheduling software, but they understood the movement of the sun and could measure the key solar events of the year and plan the community schedule from them.
The stone circles which dot the U.K. were their calendars, the most iconic of them being Stonehenge, which was aligned to the summer solstice.
A recent article published by Cambridge University Press1, presents the case that many of the stones were transported from an earlier stone circle at Waun Mawn in SW Wales.
A journey of over 200 miles
A shorter article was published on the BBC website2.
The stone circle must have had huge significance to justify the time and effort to transport these massive stones so far. Clearly it was much more than just a calendar.
Would you take that much trouble to transport your project scheduling tool?
But then your life and the future of your community does not depend on it.
As Time Goes By
As humanity advanced our ability to track and master time improved and more sophisticated calendar systems were developed.
As civilizations, dynasties and religions rose they each introduced a new calendar system to mark their importance.
The main purpose was still to track the seasons and ensure agricultural success.
This meant that the calendars must be synchronized with the solar year which has a duration of 365.2422 days.
Throughout the centuries there were numerous systems, many of them now lost to history.
Some tracked the solar year more closely than others.
The Gregorian Calendar
Introduced in 1582 by Pope Gregory XIII, the Gregorian Calendar, originally a religious calendar to replace the increasingly inaccurate Julian calendar, it has become the de-facto civil calendar for international interaction.
The Gregorian calendar ensures the synchronization by inserting “Leap Years”, generally once in every four years.
Although there is still an error each year it is too insignificant to trouble us for a long time.
There are still numerous religious calendars in use throughout the world to determine religious holidays and local cultural events, but none have come close to the ubiquity of the Gregorian calendar.
If you are interested in more information about calendars check out “The Time and Date” website.3
Humans have been using calendars for millennia and as project managers we will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
They will be more sophisticated than those of our Neolithic ancestors, if less majestic, but we should not underestimate the power of the calendar.
Top Lesson for Project Managers
This has been a short post and was not intended to provide many specific lessons, but here is some food for thought.
- The Gregorian calendar is often the standard for international projects, but with global multicultural teams we need to be aware there are other calendar systems out there, which determine important events in people’s lives, and plan accordingly.
- It always amazes me how often in the US key project deadlines and deliverables are due in early to mid-December. Right between the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays when disruption to every kind of services is at the maximum.
- The calendar can be a powerful tool. – Use it thoughtfully.
- When you are setting New Year resolutions, remember that there are several New Years, stay sharp with Jeff Bezos’s – “It is always Day 1 concept”
It is always New Year’s Day, do not slack off.