Published here September 2011

Introduction | The Business Case | The Preferred Solution
Risks and Issues | Detailed Planning | PART 2

Editor's Note: The following paper is an actual project record presented here as a case study intended for use as a general project management class exercise. For this reason, specific names of companies or individuals have been carefully omitted. However, anyone wishing further information may contact the author through the contact information provided on this web site.


It started like most other projects - a desire for change. My wife and I live (that is to say: used to live) in a single-family home of around 2200 square feet in a southern part of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. We valued our independence, our quiet neighborhood, our space, and tending to our home and back yard. It was all very pleasant and enjoyable for thirty years. But then one day we realized that maintaining the property, shopping, cooking, housework and sundry chores, to say nothing of maintenance, were becoming too much of a good thing at our age.

Besides, constant media advocacy of "EcoDensity"[1] was beginning to make us feel guilty about the amount of space that just two of us were occupying. Clearly, we should be thinking about "downsizing". Moreover, friends suggested that if we were going to move it would be better to do it earlier rather than later while we were still in reasonably good health and therefore fit to do so.

We decided to make this a project.

The downsizing project concept

The first point of departure should be the identification of the "stakeholders". The primary stakeholders are obviously my wife and I, who we will call "The Partnership" or "Sponsors". Closely related are our son and daughter, who wisely decided, evidently, to keep out of the discussion of the venture. Nevertheless, they were quick to offer help with the actual project execution if that is what we decided. Other stakeholders, you might call them "second tier", included our neighbors, our financial advisor and, of course, the managers of the proposed facility of choice. Also could be included were our real estate agent and our lawyer. Even so, that number of stakeholders meant that the project was not all that complex.

Every good project idea of any significance, and we considered this one to be significant, should start with a "Value Proposition" as a first step to a viable Business Case.

So, downsizing would involve finding alternative accommodation in a full-service independent seniors' residence. That is, preferably with full board and housekeeping services, and generally people around as a part of a community. We would invest the funds from selling our unencumbered home to pay for the monthly fee and any other related expenses. The payoff would be less "work" and more free time to enjoy a new life style with less responsibility and worry.

Perhaps more subtle but none the less important would be the availability of help in the event of a sudden life threatening event. This has particular importance to us as we have no family or relations living anywhere near us. Our son lives down in San Diego and our married daughter lives over east, near Toronto. Of course, the project would involve quite a lot of "activities" such as disposing of more than half of our accumulated possessions, selecting or modifying furniture to fit (I love woodworking), rearranging our finances, and moving and settling in.

Having established the general idea, in true project management fashion we turned to Issacon 1208a for guidance. I wrote this Issacon only a year earlier and little did I expect to be using it first hand. Adapting this Issacon to our project, the steps to a serious Business Case, on which we would have to make a decision, appeared to be as follows:

  • Research the problem, i.e. what specifically should we be looking for with what flexibility
  • Identify those facilities that suggest best fit, i.e. could be viable
  • Quantify the costs and benefits of each alternative
  • Select a preferred solution
  • Identify any risks and issues with implementation
  • Make a decision to move forward with the project if the foregoing looks promising

1. The word "EcoDensity" is a term purloined and registered by Sam Sullivan, past mayor of Vancouver. In spite of a charter to adopt EcoDensity for Vancouver to make it the "greenest" city, the word does not appear to have an official or formal definition. In general, it is intended to mean "a process to find a vision for Vancouver that will result in definition of new medium- and higher-density neighborhoods in locations other than the downtown peninsula, and to combine livability, affordability and sustainability with zoning changes that will allow continued growth" (The Vancouver Sun February 26, 2008). In short, stuff in more people into the available space in the belief that this will save the planet.
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