Episode 74 – Andy and Karen on Gratitude

Episode #74
Original Air Date: 02.04.2019

34 Minutes

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Our Guest This Episode: Andy and Karen Crowe

Velociteach founder and CEO Andy Crowe and his wife Karen have recently departed on a long-term sabbatical aboard a 48-ft catamaran, which they have aptly named Gratitude. In this podcast, Nick and Bill have an engaging conversation with the couple about their courageous adventure.

A significant amount of planning and preparation goes into a long-term project such as this one; listen as Andy and Karen explain how they tackled these challenges. We wanted to hear their story from a project manager’s perspective, so the podcast focuses on how this undertaking compares to any other project facing a PM.

The conversation explores elements such as project integration, scope, scheduling, and cost. We ask Andy and Karen how they identified reliable resources, and what risk assessments they have performed in preparation.

We will keep you posted on Andy and Karen’s intrepid journey. We wish them safe travels and Bon Voyage!

Favorite Quotes from Our Talk:

“I think any time you are organizing, thinking ahead, categorizing, you’re managing a project. This is definitely – I would say this qualifies."

- Karen Crowe

“with risks you do quantitative and qualitative analysis. And the reason you do that after you’ve identified the risks is it’s easy for our brains, …….to get tricked and to start looking at the wrong risks.”

- Andy Crowe

“…in your planning, you’ve got to have room for life to happen.”

- Karen Crowe

“… we spread out a big piece of butcher paper and started putting sticky notes on it and created a WBS for everything that has to happen.”

- Andy Crowe

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Table of Contents

01:04 … Meet Karen Crowe
02:36 … Project Planning and Integration
07:40 … Project Spike
09:13 … Project Scope
12:00 … Cost Management
13:08 … Learning New Practices
15:13 … Gratitude
16:16 … Project Resources
17:33 … Risk Analysis
21:11 … Stakeholders
25:00 … Communication
26:51 … WBS and Project Conclusion
31:25 … Follow the Journey

KAREN CROWE:  I think any time you are organizing, thinking ahead, categorizing, you’re managing a project.  This is definitely – I would say this qualifies.

NICK WALKER:  Welcome to Manage This, the podcast by project managers for project managers.  We’re glad you’ve joined us for a conversation about what matters to you in the field of project management.  It’s a podcast where we routinely talk with experts, trainers, mentors, people who have been where you are now and where you’re headed.

I’m your host, Nick Walker, and with me are two guys who guide our conversation, Andy Crowe and Bill Yates.  And guys, I’m excited about this podcast for a couple reasons.  It’s a chance to get to know our own people a little bit better, both professionally and personally.  But it’s also a chance to hear about managing a project like none we’ve ever talked about before here on this podcast.  And to help us, we have an extra special guest in the studio today.  So Bill, why don’t you tell us a little bit about who’s with Andy today.

Meet Karen Crowe

BILL YATES:  Yeah, we have Karen Crowe in the office today, in our podcast booth.  It is so good to have you here.  This is clearly a case of the better half of the Andy and Karen marriage is here.  Andy is like me in that he out-kicked his coverage.  And I think today our guests have a chance to understand a bit more about that.  Welcome, Karen.

KAREN CROWE:  Thank you, Bill.

BILL YATES:  We’re excited to hear more about the project.  But first, Karen, I think for those who are not as familiar with Velociteach, you were involved with the company before I started, right from the start.  And just share with our listeners a little bit about that.

KAREN CROWE:  When Andy and I started Velociteach, well, it was a little overwhelming.  We knew, like we had a solid plan.  Andy had spreadsheets; and, I mean, you know, he’s a project manager, so he had the plan.  But there was just me and him to carry it out.  The main thing that I have been involved in and continue to be involved in was creating the workbooks for the live training classes, specifically the mind maps.  That’s my…

BILL YATES:  Yeah, there are some listeners right now that are going, “Oh, my gosh, I love her.”  Others are going to, “The mind maps, they drove me crazy.”

KAREN CROWE:  I hate them.  You either love them or hate them, that’s true.

BILL YATES:  Yeah, yeah, but it’s such a great memorization device that we use.  And you’re really – you’re the mother of that.  You really are.

KAREN CROWE:  And I feel very – they are my baby.  I feel protective of them.

Project Planning and Integration

NICK WALKER:  So Andy and Karen, the reason we’re all together here is that both of you are headed on what amounts to not only an adventure, but also sort of a project management challenge like none you’ve ever encountered – a long-term sabbatical aboard the sailing vessel Gratitude.  It’s a project that has obviously involved untold hours of planning and preparation.  But before we get into this, Andy, why?  What’s the reason for all this?

ANDY CROWE:  I think because it’s there, Nick.  You know what, this is something that started out as a question.  We’re not retiring.  But it started out as a question:  Is this something we could do and enjoy in retirement?  And I think after we explored and answered that question, the next question began to be, well, why wait till retirement?

BILL YATES:  What triggered this for you both?  I know, you know, I see Andy a good bit in the office.  I know he started getting this desire to be on the water.  And then I know Karen, forgive the pun, but she got onboard with it, too.  But Andy, looking back in 2018, back in the summer you took a sailing class; right?

ANDY CROWE:  Correct.  Yeah, we went through American Sailing Association certifications.

BILL YATES:  And before that, what really started to foster, for both of you, kind of your passion for wanting to try this out?

ANDY CROWE:  You know, it’s probably a long winding story.  I’ll condense it down to this.  Years and years ago, and it’s probably been 20 years ago, I read Jimmy Buffett’s autobiography, “A Pirate Looks at 50.”  And in that he described his routine of, when he wasn’t performing on the road, he would get in a plane, he would fly a float plane out to some uninhabited island in the keys, and just go surf fish all morning.  Then when he was tired of it, or when he caught as many as he wanted to catch, he’d put them in the cooler and fly back home.  And that idea captivated me.  And I thought, well, thank you, Jimmy Buffett.  You’ve just defined what I want my retirement to look like.

So that idea persisted.  And then around 2014, 2015, I started going fishing down in Islamorada in the Keys with a good friend of mine who has a fishing boat and is actually quite a good fisherman, and I started doing that and realized I really, really like being on the water.  And sort of the third thing that triangulated in is that Karen and I were in Hawaii.  We were on a dive, I believe, or snorkel…

KAREN CROWE:  Snorkel tour.

ANDY CROWE:  Yeah, snorkel tour at this point.  We hadn’t started scuba at that point yet.  And we were on a boat, and it was a big catamaran, and the captain cut off the engines in the middle of the ocean.  I said, “What are you doing?”  And she said, “We’re going sailing.”  And she raised the mainsail and raised the jib, unfurled the jib.  And it just overwhelmed me.  I realized this is something I absolutely love.  So that’s kind of the three things that sort of triangulated in.

NICK WALKER:  Tell us a little bit about your trip.  I mean, we’re talking long-term.  How long?

ANDY CROWE:  That depends.  That’s going to be a really interesting question.

KAREN CROWE:  Depends on who you ask.

NICK WALKER:  And where are you going?

KAREN CROWE:  Well, my discussion continues on how long this trip is going to last.  My first kind of concern about going out for an extended period of time was how am I going to do leaving  my kids, leaving my community?  I’m very involved in the various places in my life.  I’m very grounded and rooted here.  So how are we going to make friends?  How are we going to have that sense of belonging?

So when we first started talking about an extended time, my first thought was, well, we could kind of just dip our toe in the water and just go out for a few weeks.  But the longer we discussed it, and the longer we talked about the different factors that were making it possible for us to do this at all, we realized, you know, it needs to be longer than that.

So I finally kind of put my stake in the ground and said, okay, I think I can do a year.  If I can still have time, if I can still see my kids from time to time and come home and see my friends, then I think a year will work.  But Andy’s opinion is different.

NICK WALKER:  Aha.

ANDY CROWE:  Yeah.  I feel like we’re looking at two years.  I would not invest this much in a boat were I only going for one year.

NICK WALKER:  And it’s just the two of you.

ANDY CROWE:  Well, yes.  Yeah.  We’re sailing together.  We’re going to have friends and family down to join us in different legs of the journey from to time.  But, yeah, I mean, and what people say is, regardless of your plans, 85 percent of the time it’s just going to be you.  And so a lot of people do this type of thing in different ways.  We’re going to take a sabbatical.  We’ve got an open window in life.  And we’re going to set out for a while, and we’ll see.

Project Spike

BILL YATES:  I remember laughing as – I can laugh about it now.  But back I think about the middle of 2018 you guys were, you know, we talk about spikes; right?  Just experiments.  And I look at this project, and I see this spike that you guys had back in August when you went to really, okay, let’s do this.  Let’s try a class for two weeks, both to get certified and to see if Karen is going to get sick on the water for two weeks.

KAREN CROWE:  Right.  An important question to answer.

BILL YATES:  Yeah, yeah, yeah.

ANDY CROWE:  And this is something we can do together because there are scenarios where our training skipper would say, “Okay, Karen, you’re the skipper for this.  And Andy, you’re going to be working the lines,” or “You’re going to be on the helm” or whatever.  There were times when it was inverted.  And that’s not necessarily the way we really relate at home.  We don’t give each other orders.  But you do when you’re the skipper in that role.  You’re basically calling the shots, and somebody else is carrying them out.

BILL YATES:  It sounds like an Agile team.

ANDY CROWE:  Well, sort of.  It’s an Agile team at home.  It’s more of a hierarchy on the water.  And it’s interesting, Bill, because this is a spike for our listeners who know a spike is an experiment, and it’s generally considered to be throwaway code in a software sense.  You throw a spike to run a test to find out an answer to a question.  That is exactly what we were doing.  We were throwing a spike with this.  We were going to go through certification, figure out at the end is this something we can do and enjoy together.  And the answer was yes.

Project Scope

NICK WALKER:  And it’s interesting from a project management perspective.  I mean, let’s talk a little bit about that.  How is this similar to any other project, perhaps, that you’ve worked on in the past?

KAREN CROWE:  Well, it definitely has phases like a project.  We’ve had to do a lot of pre-planning to get ready.  Just there’s finding the boat, then purchasing the boat, then equipping and outfitting the boat.

ANDY CROWE:  And that’s tricky because there aren’t many boats for sale right now.

KAREN CROWE:  Yes.

ANDY CROWE:  The hurricane wiped out the inventory.

NICK WALKER:  Oh, wow.

KAREN CROWE:  And a lot of the new inventory was gobbled up by the charter fleets.  So they depend on…

ANDY CROWE:  It’s a two-year wait.

KAREN CROWE:  Yeah.  Basically, if you want a new boat, you have to wait a couple of years minimum.  So we had a lot of – and we also had a bit of a learning curve.  We’d never bought a boat before.  So this was…

ANDY CROWE:  Yeah, and this is a big boat.  It’s a 48-foot catamaran.  So it’s a sailing boat, not a power boat, even though it has engines on it.  So this is just a big catamaran.

KAREN CROWE:  Right.  We knew that we were the team.  It was going to be me and him.  And we also have a pretty good idea of strengths and weaknesses.  We’ve been married for 30 years, and so I think we know each other by now pretty well.  We did a little bit of division of labor and said, tasks A, B, and C, we’re going to give those to him.  Karen’s better at D, E, and F.  So there was a pretty natural division of labor.

ANDY CROWE:  Basically she went out and found the boat, and I figured out how to pay for it.

BILL YATES:  One thing I’ve got to note, too.  Karen’s smart enough she got a double-hull catamaran; right?  So there’s kind of a your side and his side.

KAREN CROWE:  That’s right.

BILL YATES:  If it comes to that.

KAREN CROWE:  And there’s a forward cockpit and an aft cockpit.  So there’s always someplace to escape for both of us.

NICK WALKER:  You mentioned hurricanes.  Of course the first thing that pops into my mind is, you know…

ANDY CROWE:  Well, being a weather guy, yeah.

BILL YATES:  Yeah, Mr. Weather Guy.  Imagine that.

ANDY CROWE:  I expect a heads-up if you see any headed my way, just so you know.

NICK WALKER:  Okay, I’ve got your number.  But really, I mean, you’ve got to research the times of year to go, where to go, what the weather’s like.

ANDY CROWE:  Yeah, and our insurance policy helps with that, too, because they say between July 1st and November 1st you are not to be above 12 degrees, 40 minutes north latitude, which is basically Grenada.  You’ve got to go down to Grenada and hide out, or below.

NICK WALKER:  All right.  Well, that sets my mind at ease a little bit because I do have these visions, you know, “The weather started getting rough, the tiny ship was tossed,” you know.  I picture this…

KAREN CROWE:  My college roommates have given me all the Gilligan jokes you can imagine, yes.

ANDY CROWE:  You know what’s funny is there’s probably a third of our listeners who have no idea what Gilligan…

BILL YATES:  Gilligan?  What’s that?

KAREN CROWE:  Google it.

BILL YATES:  Is that on YouTube?

KAREN CROWE:  “Gilligan’s Island.”

BILL YATES:  Who’s Gilligan?

ANDY CROWE:  Go ahead.

Cost Management

NICK WALKER:  Well, you know, you mentioned budget.  You mentioned you had to figure out how to pay for it.  Okay.  The elephant in the room.  Are you guys billionaires?  How did you pull this off?

ANDY CROWE:  Well, it was through some creative stuff.  You know, a lot of people do it different ways, Nick.  And so it’s funny, there are actually people out there who create a GoFundMe page, and they will do videos of their sailing adventures and get money.  No, we’re not doing that.  We’re continuing to be involved in Velociteach, obviously continuing to sell books and resources and things like that, and just be as involved as we can be while we’re on the water.  So it’s just a sabbatical, is what it is.  We’re not looking at it as retirement or anything else.

BILL YATES:  Yeah, it was one of the funny things, I thought, as I was thinking about people listening and hearing this story.  It’s like, okay, this is equivalent to buying a vacation home or something like that.

ANDY CROWE:  Yeah.

BILL YATES:  Now, there’s some risk; right?  I mean, it’s one thing to buy a house you can walk around in and imagine yourself in.  You can figure out where stuff fits and where you’re going to go shopping and all that.  Not the case here.

KAREN CROWE:  True.

Learning New Practices

BILL YATES:  It’s very different.  But it’s still, you know, it’s not ridiculous.  But there are things about a boat, a sailing vessel, that are just different.  To your point, Karen, you’re learning to sail.  You’re learning what kind of equipment do I need for this.  What special training do I need, certifications that I need.  And it made me think about project managers for some of the projects that we inherit and have to lead.  Many times we’re getting blown away with new stuff.  There’s so much new stuff to learn.

ANDY CROWE:  Right.

KAREN CROWE:  Yes, exactly.

BILL YATES:  So how did you guys tackle some of that?

KAREN CROWE:  Well, some of it is thinking ahead to, okay, we know we’re going to be living on the boat, and some of the basic tasks of living are cooking and eating.  So I start researching, first on the Internet, then buying cookbooks and thinking, all right, how are we going to provision?  What kinds – we got a little taste of that when we did our certification class because we were living on a catamaran there.  But I went to the grocery store with our captain to kind of see what sorts of things are available in the Caribbean.  It’s different than what you can find at home.

ANDY CROWE:  Quite a bit.

KAREN CROWE:  Yeah, it’s quite a bit – there are plenty of stores.  It’s not like we’re going to be out in the wilderness with nothing to purchase.  But there’s just different kinds of things available.  Doing a lot of reading and research and planning for how are we going to store food?  How are going to get food out there?  My guess is we’ll be eating a lot of fish because Andy wants to do a lot of fishing.

ANDY CROWE:  Yeah, yeah.

KAREN CROWE:  So I bought a huge fish cookbook.

ANDY CROWE:  And my buddy…

KAREN CROWE:  I mean, a monster.  I mean, this thing, it could be a coffee table book, it is so big.

ANDY CROWE:  It’s impressive.  My friend gave me three fishing rods that he had made for us with the boat’s name on it.

BILL YATES:  Oh, nice.

NICK WALKER:  Oh, wow.

ANDY CROWE:  And so they’re beautiful.  They’re absolutely beautiful.

KAREN CROWE:  Yeah, it was a nice gift.

ANDY CROWE:  It was a really nice gift as a bon voyage gift.  So I’ve got to.  My pride’s going to require that I catch some fish.  Or at least show pictures of me holding fish.

KAREN CROWE:  And I figure I want to cook more than fish tacos, so…

ANDY CROWE:  Yeah.

Gratitude

BILL YATES:  I should ask, how did you come up with the name?

KAREN CROWE:  Hmm.  It was a long process.  We kept trading.  We started a document together that we both had access to.  And every time one of us thought of a name we liked, we would put it in the document.

ANDY CROWE:  Andy who hates collaborating.

KAREN CROWE:  He didn’t have a choice here.  Well, one of the things we had read was, when you’re out on the water, in the boating community, nobody learns each other’s last names.  You’re known as Andy and Karen on Gratitude.  So the name of your boat essentially becomes how you’re known.

ANDY CROWE:  A big part of your identity.

KAREN CROWE:  A big part.  It’s literally your name when you’re out on the water.  So we were like, no, we’re not going to be Andy and Karen, Party Central, you know, or Andy and Karen, I don’t know, we’re just not going to come up with something – we wanted to come up with something that was representative of us.  And I would say we’re spiritual people.  We are also, like, philosophical people.  We wanted whatever name we came up with to have meaning, something personal to us.

ANDY CROWE:  Gratitude has been an important concept.

KAREN CROWE:  Yes, yes.

 Project Resources

BILL YATES:  I want to shift gears a little.  I’m going to pivot a little bit.

KAREN CROWE:  Yeah.

BILL YATES:  How, again, as you’re figuring out basics like how do I outfit this boat, how do I find reputable people that I can trust to give me good guidance on things like routes we should take, reports that we should hit, or stores that we can trust, or good advice to get.  How did you find those resources?  Because, again, you’re not, you know, it’s not something local where you can talk to a neighbor and see who you use as a plumber, as an electrician, et cetera.  How did you guys find those resources that you felt like you could trust?

KAREN CROWE:  Well, I would say there are sailing forums.  There are tons of books.  There are tons of YouTube channels.  So it was easy to kind of start there, just get a sense of who are people talking about?  Who are people recommending?  And interestingly enough, the couple that we’re buying our boat from, we discovered from a YouTube channel.  They have a very popular YouTube channel, in fact.

ANDY CROWE:  They’re YouTube stars.

KAREN CROWE:  When we began to talk to them about buying their boat, he turned out to be an incredible resource.  He’s basically opened up his Rolodex.  Again, if you’re younger than 25, a Rolodex is what we used to use before Contacts.

BILL YATES:  Gilligan used a Rolodex.

KAREN CROWE:  Exactly.

Risk Analysis

BILL YATES:  Nick mentioned one of the biggest risks in my mind, which is a hurricane.  Talk to me about the risk that you guys were looking at as you stepped into this?  And I know, certainly with Andy, his brain naturally goes into risk register, identify plan, take action.  How did you guys walk through some of that?

ANDY CROWE:  That was an interesting process because you know with risks you do quantitative and qualitative analysis.  And the reason you do that after you’ve identified the risks is it’s easy for our brains, the way the human brain works, to get tricked and to start looking at the wrong risks.  And so, you know, what most people are freaked out about that talk to me is about pirates.  Well, it does happen.  You know, there are incidents of piracy.  But the cruisers that I’ve talked to, the sailors that I’ve talked to, not only have they never had anything happen, they’ve never known anyone who’s actually had that happen.  So now you look at it, and you say, okay, probability and impact.  The probability’s really low.  Now, the impact would be high.  But things like that.

So you start to look at the risks.  Here’s the real risk.  The real risk is you drop your anchor, you think it’s set, you go to bed in some marina or some harbor at night, and the wind shifts direction, and your anchor drags and blows you into a reef, and your boat sinks.  That’s a real risk.  That’s something you have to worry about.  So, you know, it’s the things that you look at – and, you know, so we’ve gone through training on how to do that and how to set the anchor and how to know and those types of things.  But that’s still a legitimate risk.

Weather is a big risk.  Running into another boat, you know, not paying attention, just sloppiness, things like that.  And you read a lot of horror stories about those types of things.  So people who come into a marina late at night, and it’s dark, and they don’t know the channel markings well, and they miss.  You know, you’re supposed to go through the channel, and maybe they go on the wrong side of it and run into a reef, and their boat sinks.  And it happens all the time.  And so those are the kinds of things you worry about.

KAREN CROWE:  Well, and even running into a sandbar.  You use charts to know the depth of the different areas that you’re going.  But especially in a place like the Bahamas, where it’s very shallow, a place that’s been affected by a hurricane, the bottom of the ocean shifts.  It’s not a static environment.

ANDY CROWE:  We were in a wedding in Florida last weekend.  The groom wanted to come in on a boat; okay?  So I’m with him because I’m part of the wedding party.  We’re on the boat.  Another guy is piloting the boat, a very able pilot for this boat.  And he runs it right into the sand, and the boat stops, and the engine cuts off.  Start it up, engine cuts off again.  And we’re sitting there, on the way to the ceremony, you know, and it’s just – so, yeah, even guys who know what they’re doing can – they say there’s two kinds of sailors:  ones that have gone aground and ones that lie about it, won’t admit it.

BILL YATES:  Nick, I think of Rodney Dangerfield in “Caddyshack.”

ANDY CROWE:  “Caddyshack,” oh, yeah.  Yeah, yeah.

BILL YATES:  I’ve got control of this.

NICK WALKER:  That’s interesting because the risk assessment is sort of looking outward, as well.  You’re not just looking at, okay, what do we need to do for our own benefit, but you’re having to worry about others that you don’t have any control over, really.

ANDY CROWE:  Yes.  Yeah.

KAREN CROWE:  That’s correct.

ANDY CROWE:  Environmental awareness, big time.

Stakeholders

NICK WALKER:  So it’s the two of you, but yet it is bigger than just the two of you.  What sort of stakeholders are involved in this project?

ANDY CROWE:  The first stakeholder is the poor guy that we’ve got coming down to sail with us for eight days.  He’s a Coast Guard skipper.  And he’s going to get us out of all our bad habits and back into the straight and narrow on this.  So that guy would be the first one.

KAREN CROWE:  I would say our kids are definitely stakeholders.  They’re all three onboard.  I used another pun unintentionally, sorry.  We asked each one of them what they thought about it, and they each had an interesting response.  Different, but they were all supportive.

ANDY CROWE:  And we’re basically – we’re empty nesters.  So, yeah.

KAREN CROWE:  Yes, yes.

ANDY CROWE:  Recent empty nesters, but still.

KAREN CROWE:  Our youngest is in college now, which blows my mind.  She was very supportive.  She said:  “Mom, go live your life.  I think it’s great.”  Our middle son, going to be living in our home and maintaining it while we’re gone.  So he loved the idea because it means he can save a little money for a house of his own.  And our oldest has always been a boat person, so he was ecstatic.  He was really thrilled.  But they’re definitely stakeholders because we’re going to be depending on them while we’re away, not just in caring for our home and our other property, but just to stay in touch.

ANDY CROWE:  And we’ve got lots of friends and extended family that we hope will come visit us while we’re on this.  We’ve got three staterooms on the boat, so hopefully we’ll only be using one of those most of the time.

NICK WALKER:  And those of us here, you know, left behind at Velociteach, obviously are going to miss you.  Have you had to make any sort of preparations?  You know, “This has got to happen while I’m gone?”

ANDY CROWE:  Very much.  We’ve been putting a lot of systems and practices and processes into place.  We expect to have communication ability on the boat, so Internet satellite.  So we’ll be able to communicate while we’re gone.  Bill and I have worked together, how long now, Bill?  Fourteen years?  Fifteen? A long time.

BILL YATES:  Oh, yeah.  Yeah, 15 years.

ANDY CROWE:  And so we kind of know what to expect from each other and have worked out most of the kinks in our working relationship.  And so, yeah, we’ve definitely made some changes.  One good thing, Nick, we went through a big project in 2018 to get our resources realigned with the Sixth Edition PMBOK Guide.  And so those are stable for four years; you know?  And not that we won’t make any changes because I’m famous for tinkering and tweaking.  But those resources are now out there, and they’re somewhat stable.  And then we’re using that.  That was a big part of this window in the timing, as well.

BILL YATES:  So Karen, we’ll see you in about three years.

ANDY CROWE:  This just got extended.

KAREN CROWE:  Don’t put any new ideas into his head, Bill.

BILL YATES:  Just kidding.  No, I think about any organization that takes on a big new project, people are going to be asked to drop things or, okay, 60 percent of your job is now this new thing; 40 percent is here.  And I’ve seen you both having to do that in relationships.  You both are very involved with the community.  There’s family.  There’s community service that you do.

ANDY CROWE:  Right.

BILL YATES:  And then you have two organizations that you run.  So I’ve seen you doing a lot of that.  Very similar to the kind of analysis we have to do when we’re taking on a new project.  I think, okay, there are things I’ve got to get off my plate.  Who’s going to pick it up and run with it?

ANDY CROWE:  And you know what?  We’re a pretty organized, process-driven company.  But it was funny, that Sixth Edition conversion was bigger than any of us thought.  It was the conversion of our books and resources, refactoring some of our online resources, rewriting all of our question content.  And the more you look at it, it was a big project.  Would you agree?

BILL YATES:  Absolutely.

KAREN CROWE:  We created four new mind maps.

ANDY CROWE:  Yes.  You know that…

KAREN CROWE:  I mean, brand new.

ANDY CROWE:  You know that first-hand.

KAREN CROWE:  Right, so it was big.

Communication

BILL YATES:  I think of some of the communication challenges that you guys have because of where you’re going to be located.  And I think of some of the guests that we’ve had in this room before, and how they talked about, whether it was Dr. Chuck Casto – Andy, you remember him describing when he was in Japan, and some of the issues they had as this nuclear disaster had just occurred, this event.  And, okay, what kind of communication can we depend on or not?  Just the urgency that we have sometimes.  And I know that, you know, that’s some risk planning that you guys have in terms of looking at what communication will you have available to you.

ANDY CROWE:  I will give that some thought as I’m pretending I’m Jimmy Buffett surfing, fishing.  You know, we are going to be near shore most of the time.  We expect to have cell phone communications, we expect to have data.  We expect to have Internet in limited quantities, although the goal is not to go stay on Facebook for two years.

BILL YATES:  Right.

NICK WALKER:  Are you going to be crossing any major bodies of water?  Any oceans?

KAREN CROWE:  Not right away.

ANDY CROWE:  If I have my way, eventually.  We’ll see.  We’ll get there.

NICK WALKER:  Okay.

KAREN CROWE:  We’re not saying no.  But I know that a lot of the people that we’ve talked to who have major objections…

ANDY CROWE:  Which most people don’t, but a few do.

KAREN CROWE:  Most people don’t, but there are a few, and they’re pretty vocal.  I think that’s what they’re worried about.  They’re worried that we’re going to go out and try and cross the Atlantic in the first month.  That’s not our goal.  Our goal is to get more competent as sailors and then see where it takes us.

NICK WALKER:  So you’re not ruling it out.

KAREN CROWE:  Not ruling it out, but…

ANDY CROWE:  Far from it, Nick.

KAREN CROWE:  But no, no, it’s a long-term goal.  We’ll put it that way.  Because you don’t know how things are going to go.  You’ve got to, in your planning, you’ve got to have room for life to happen.

WBS and Project Conclusion

NICK WALKER:  So what else has to happen now, between now and the time you actually hit the water?

ANDY CROWE:  That’s funny.  So we started off, one of the first things we did is we have a room in our home that kind of became the sailing room.  And we spread out a big piece of butcher paper and started putting sticky notes on it and created a WBS for everything that has to happen.  And there were categories of things that have to happen with work; things that have to happen with home, with our house; the things that we need to do relationally with our children to get them launched and so forth; things that we need to do to find a boat; then things we need to do to provision that boat in whatever state we find it.  So there was quite a bit.  So there was an awful lot.  And those were not all of the categories.

I spent hours watching videos of people repair boats and trying to figure out what tools I was going to need because there is a lot of maintenance on a sailboat in the ocean.  Now, at this point, we’ve staged half of our life in a storage locker near the boat.  And soon we’re going to move all of that stuff, in less than two weeks, onto the boat and actually move on.  And that’s when things get a lot more interesting.

But right now, I think, for us, or at least from my perspective, the things that have to happen, we just have to get everything situated.  We’re almost to the point now we’ve made so many lists and put so many things down there.  We’ve had friends help drive things down to Florida.  The boat’s in Fort Lauderdale today.  And they’ve been driving down there and dropping stuff off that we can store.  We’ve had things shipped down.  We’ve carried multiple suitcases down over several trips.  Now we almost just want to get it on the boat and look around and see what’s missing, which is not the most project management way to go about it, but it’s probably about the best, most practical way.

KAREN CROWE:  We probably have a little bit more navigation planning to do.  I know that the first eight days we will have a captain with us, and he’s made this route that he’s taking us on many times.  So we can trust him.  But, you know, part of the purpose of bringing him onboard is to help us get better at route planning.  I would say that that doesn’t have to happen before we leave, but it’s got to happen pretty quickly upon our departure because, once he’s gone, it’ll be up to us to figure out our routes.

ANDY CROWE:  There’s all kinds of navigational tools you use.  And so that’s an area where we’re both looking forward to sharpening our skills.

NICK WALKER:  It occurs to me that you have to be a project manager to do something like this, whether you have ever been one or not.  You become one, I guess, in this process.

ANDY CROWE:  Yeah.  You get dunked in very quickly, steeped in all of the things.  And either that, you know, I guess the advantage is we’re kind of getting philosophical about it now and saying, look, whatever we forgot, there’s probably a Costco down there.  And so…

KAREN CROWE:  And a Target.

ANDY CROWE:  Yeah, we’ll just figure it out.  But yeah, you really do.  You’ve got to think through a lot of areas of your life.  And some areas are really easy, and some of them are a little trickier.  You know, if you take medication, well, how am I going to get medication in the Caribbean?  And where am I going to get it?  Do they have the same – there are so many different things to consider.  And so we do, we’ve got a lot of – we’ve put a lot of planning into this trip.

NICK WALKER:  And I suppose, too, there are folks listening who would say, you know, I didn’t realize, but I’ve been a project manager all my life.

ANDY CROWE:  Yeah.

KAREN CROWE:  Yes, yes, yes.  I think any time you are organizing, thinking ahead, categorizing, you’re managing a project.  This is definitely – I would say this qualifies.

ANDY CROWE:  Well, and both of us, we had these moments where we were feeling overwhelmed.  And starting to document some of these things and just talking through the concerns with each other, because I guess we’re the two primary stakeholders in this, and just talking through the things that stressed, well, it was interesting because at one point – I think Karen is just better at doing certain kinds of paperwork than I am.  It makes me insane to go through some of this stuff.  And she just plows through it and methodically gets it done.

But at one point I was getting overwhelmed with paperwork.  And she said, “Well, let me.”  Well, it was nice; you know?  And then I was having to negotiate for something else, and that’s something I didn’t mind doing.  And so we found a good tradeoff and were able to complement each other’s skill sets.

Follow the Journey

NICK WALKER:  So obviously we will be following your journey.  Can others do the same?

ANDY CROWE:  Yeah, absolutely.  We have a blog called SailingWithGratitude.com, and that’s probably one good way.  We’re setting up an Instagram, I think it is @sv – for sailing vessel – @svgratitude.  And we’ll definitely try and keep some content out there as this journey gets started.

NICK WALKER:  Do you feel prepared?  Are you ready?

KAREN CROWE:  I think we’re as ready as you can be for someone who’s never done this before.

ANDY CROWE:  It’s funny.  It’s like asking first-time parents, you know, are you ready?  Well, yeah, I guess, you know, I’m ready for this baby to show up.

KAREN CROWE:  Someone who’s never been married before.  Are you ready?  Well, I mean, you don’t know what you don’t know.

ANDY CROWE:  Yeah, I think we are.  We’ve gone through a decent amount of training.  We’ve done a ton of research.  We have read, read, read.  And obviously we’ve lived onboard a catamaran for a little while and spent some time and learned various techniques and methods.  So, yeah, I think we’re ready for the next step.

NICK WALKER:  So obviously you have all your supplies ready to go, but there are two things here that we need to add to the supplies, and that is two Manage This coffee mugs.

ANDY CROWE:  Oh, yeah, we couldn’t live without that.

KAREN CROWE:  I can’t wait to use them.

BILL YATES:  Every morning it’ll be your first memory.  You’ll wake up and go, awww.

KAREN CROWE:  First thing that I see.

NICK WALKER:  Well, we can’t wait to hear from you from time to time.  Thank you so much, Karen, for being here.

KAREN CROWE:  It was a pleasure.

NICK WALKER:  I just – I wish you the best.  This is going to be some adventure, for sure.

NICK WALKER: So we’ve wished Andy and Karen a Bon Voyage and it’s just you and me Bill now, and we’re sitting here looking at each other across the table going “just the two of us”.

BILL YATES: Just the two of us dude, what are we going to do? I say we keep it going.

NICK WALKER: Yeah, that’s a great idea!

BILL YATES: Yeah there’re so many interesting projects and contributors out there, so, we’ve got a lot on the docket. You know also, we’ve recorded some with Andy already. A couple I know are coming up where Andy was in the room. So there’ll be a few where Andy is in the room. And then long term I’m sure he’s going to jump in and have conversations with us either here in the room or from wherever he may be.

NICK WALKER: Yeah, we’ll be able to correspond with him, we’ll be able to maybe even Skype with him out over the water somewhere depending on what sort of connectivity he has. So I’m kind of looking forward to getting frequent updates about his trip.

A special word to our listeners now.  It’s a reminder that you’ve just earned free PDUs, Professional Development Units, toward your recertification, just for listening to this podcast.  To claim them, go to Velociteach.com and choose Manage This Podcast from the top of the page.  Click the button that says Claim PDUs, and click through the steps.

That’s it for us here on Manage This.  We hope you’ll tune back in on February 19th for our next podcast.  In the meantime, we’d love to have you visit us at Velociteach.com/managethis to subscribe to this podcast, to see a transcript of the show, or to contact us.  And tweet us at @manage_this if you have any questions about our podcasts or about project management certifications.

Well, that’s all for this episode.  Thanks for joining us.  Until next time, keep calm and Manage This.

6 responses to “Episode 74 – Andy and Karen on Gratitude”

  1. Christi Jella says:

    Incredibly interesting look at project management used in life’s grand adventures. Enjoyed the stakeholder analysis and risk management discussions. Wishing you both all the best in the continued “management” of your grand project/adventure.

  2. Prince says:

    Nice one. You guys should stay in touch.

    Prince

  3. JAnice Dannebaum says:

    safe happy travels

  4. Laura says:

    Going through similar planning for my aging mother. Starting with wide open plan and try to narrow things down and add details.

  5. Susan Bodmann says:

    This is the perfect PM example. May your journey yield rich rewards.

  6. Jeeva says:

    Safe and Happy Journey

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