I’ll probably get lambasted for mining my daughter’s wedding for business lessons, but I can’t help myself. When I was first learning about Lean 20 years ago, I remember sitting in church saying to myself, “I bet I could double the throughput of people through this church without people missing a single bit of the value-add of the service.” I know it’s an illness, but I’ve learned to embrace it.
My third child, Lauren, married the love of her life, Kyle, in August. It was a wonderful event filled with joy and tears of happiness. While I could gush on and on about what wonderful young adults they are, I wanted to share a few parallels I found between planning a successful wedding and executing business decisions with precision.
The wedding day was the culmination of nearly a year of planning and went wonderfully. The entire day flowed smoothly with only minor glitches. Days after the excitement of the event had subsided, and my father-of-the-bride tears had dried, I wondered what Lauren and Kyle did right that caused the event to execute so smoothly. I imagined what our businesses would be like if big events like product launches and ERP implementations were executed with similar precision.
As I observed the wedding process from beginning to end, I found six key points that could also be applied to business:
- Vision & Mission: There was a common, well-understood, and broadly communicated vision. Throughout the wedding planning process, Lauren and Kyle shared their vision for the ceremony. They were clear that they wanted a large group of friends and family, and it was going to be a celebration.
- Cost Management: They had a clear budget and they managed to stick to it. They made hard trade-offs along the way to craft a wedding day that accomplished their vision and while staying within budget. For Lauren and Kyle, knowing that they were living within their means gave them peace of mind.
- Teamwork: They built a small team of committed and passionate people. There were a lot of people involved in making the wedding day a reality, and everyone was entirely focused on doing their part. There was a deep sense of co-accountability. At one point, one of the team members was struggling to get her role accomplished, and other members of the bridal party seamlessly stepped in and supported her. It happened naturally due to the heart-felt camaraderie and the focus on the mission.
- Discipline: There was a high level of organization and discipline. Throughout the year leading up to the wedding, Lauren and Kyle were very organized and they managed the project plan rigorously. At times, they’d start to fall behind schedule, and they’d immediately ask for help to get back on track. They wouldn’t let problems lie. In Lean terms, they pulled the Andon cord regularly.
- Game Day: For the wedding day itself, they hired a coordinator to manage the flow of the day. This person was quite the driver…some might say a disciplinarian, or even a tyrant. You didn’t want to mess her because she was absolutely, 100% in control of the day. While she may not have been the warmest person, I am so grateful that she was there. It was her rigidity and intolerance of being “off-track” that made the execution of the event flow so smoothly. It’s a great reminder that businesses need some people with a get-it-done attitude.
- Fun: Last, and by no means least, they made it fun and energizing. Lauren and Kyle are energy givers, and it radiated throughout the team that helped with the wedding. They didn’t manage their way to a great celebration of their love. They led their way to it. All of those involved with the wedding were personally connected to them and were inspired and energized to help them succeed.
Like planning a wedding, running a successful business is a challenge that includes many moving parts. It can often be stressful and daunting. But as I watched my little girl on her big day, I couldn’t help but notice all the things she and her husband did well that translated to a beautiful wedding that went off smoothly. From planning through execution, I found that the key elements that led to their success could also translate to business success – like father, like daughter.