Project Christmas Life Cycle *SPOILER*
Dec 24th, 2009 by JuannyCinco

Christmas Life Cycle

It’s that time of year again that is Christmas and I thought, an appropriate place to discuss the Project Christmas Life Cycle.

Some of you, I am sure, will think of the Christmas Life Cycle as a Christmas Program Management issue – where each year is a smaller closely related project which we seek to improve year-on-year. This view believes the Christmas life cycle to be in practice and in its aims closely related to Christmas Engineering. The truth is that the Christmas Life Cycle is actually a single extended life-long project management effort that can be divided into the typical four stages of evolution:

  1. Initiation
    Early phase stage that purposefully defines the project approach, scope and the desired outputs.
  2. Planning
    The phase with detailed task creation and governance process, stake holders are identified and reporting frequency and channels are agreed.
  3. Execution and Controlling
    The most important phase where the activities related to Christmas are properly executed and controlled. Commonly Risk Analysis and score cards are used to measure the effectiveness of the phase.
  4. Closure
    The completion, the resolution, and lessons learned.

Stage 1: Initiation

The great “Santa Lie” is a seed planted very early in the Christmas Life Cycle. It really starts with Baby’s First Christmas. The uninititiated child is introduced to the concept of the red-suited-red-nosed fat man role model that will be responsible for many of the early project deliverables. The roles are clearly established: father will be the drunk man, mother will be the project manager handling all the details, and the rest of the world are unpaid contributors to the joyous making of the great “Santa Lie”.

Of course, the first year or two are practice runs as no person actually has a recollection of the tears they shed while a strange red-suited-red-nosed fat man made promises he would never be able to keep. (unkept promises are not unusual in any project;however, these promises will be
remembered during the reverse blackmail phase)

Occasionally there is discussion of a Jesus character playing an active role; however, often the resource and time allocation constraints doesn’t allow for too much discussion. Often this item is deferred to be introduced at a later stage of the life cycle.

Stage 2: Planning

Once a child has been initiated into the real world of Santa it is time to define the stakeholders and governance process in more detail. As the child develops and gets older, the cognitive senses improve to the extend where a clear governance and communication plan are essential to the development of the lie.

Governance. Usually the parents will be responsible for maintaining the cloak of secrecy behind the “Santa Lie” but the key element to success is the communication plan.

  1. Always S-P-E-L-L out gifts – unless it is something already spelled such as G-I-J-O-E or B-B-G-U-N1
  2. Determination of Santa’s mail. He lives in Lapland NOT the North Pole. Lying with consistency is the key to early Christmas memories 2
  3. There is but ONE Santa Claus. Consecutive visits to the mall with children is NOT advised – neither is having a drunk father and drunk grandfather fighting over the role. Santa appearances should be limited to prevent confusion and embarrasment – no one wants to hear “this Santas not fat like the real Santa (dad)” just for
    Dad’s sake
  4. Santa HAS a list. This is one of the few things that can be discussed within ear shot of children. All other items should be considered confidential

Stage 3: Execution and Controlling

The execution of the Christmas plan is handled through the careful execution of the plan; in particular, the tracking of the “list”. The controlling of the plan usually goes through multiple stages.

  1. Parental Blackmail
    It is important to realize that Santa and Christmas is a year-long project. It starts the day after the 25th and runs up to the 25th. While most projects have a fixed requirement set, the list can be updated without any change control management procedures- “Be Good or Santa won’t bring you any prezzies!!”.
    Whilst the black mail can be used throughout the year, it is most effective after the month of October where the Christmas milestone is clearly in view. During the rest of the year, it may be appropriate to rely on other tactics (childrens’ home, the child trading center etc.)3
  2. “OUTING” Santa
    Some children take longer to realize that Clark Kent is really Superman – and some take longer to realize that their drunk father is not Santa; nonetheless, the day WILL come
  3. Reverse Blackmail
    There are two distinct versions of the reverse blackmail. First, the denial method: “Of course Santa’s real AND he’s going to bring me gifts,” or the reverse manipulation “I’ll be good IF Santa brings me prezzies!!”
  4. Santa is Dead
    Santa is dead. He got run over by a reindeer.

Project Change Request

  1. Reciprocal-Responsibility
    Once Santa is dead the process of gift giving converts to responsibility sharing. Gift reciprocation is walking a tight-rope with failure on the left and disappointment on the right. If you should happen to lose balance and fall into the depths of failure of disappointment, you can use the blessing of Jesus to lift you to a redemptive state – it’s the thought that counts and really, it’s not about gifts, it’s about Him.
  2. Aging Project Denouement

    Towards the end of the project there comes the inevitability of gift giving for parents. What is the appropriate gift for parents. This is rather a tough quandary for the boomeranggeneration 4 because while any gift seems nice (and it is the thought that counts) nothing says thankyou like the look of a parent wondering why you haven’t moved out yet. Even Santa seems grumpier these days

Stage 4: Closure

Christmas never ends. We just continue to go over budget each year.


Ultimately Christmas is many things – a lie we bestow on children, a holiday we begrudgingly spend together…but if we didn’t do it we’d regret it.

Bottom line – be good to one another, enjoy the holidays (all of them) and think about your New Years resolution.

For a more joyous blog entry see Wendie Gone Feral


Really. Whether your motivation be religious or conspicuous consumption make sure you spread a little cheer;)

1 Not advocating guns as a gift, though they are pretty cool if you’re not a politically correct, all-things-harmful-to-children kind of a person.
2 Remember, however, that the larger the deception, the further they fall.
3 Consult your local Catholic
4 Boomerang kids left for College but came back….I say that it serves the babyboom generation right.

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