Santa, the Project Manager

Kris Kringle had been wondering about a way to brighten up the winter season, and at the same time reward all the world’s good little children.   He wanted to delight them, and exceed their expectations, making all their dreams come true. He wanted to do all this in secret, surprising the Children on Christmas morning!  He started thinking about how to go about doing this…

Set up the PMO:


Where would Santa set up his PMO location?  He needs somewhere where there’s plenty of room for scalability, room for multiple manufacturing facilities, room for a launchpad, a location of equidistant proximity to all destinations, and no excessive bureaucratic or political issues to wrestle with.  After months of scouting and exploring, Santa ruled out Miami Beach, in favor of the North Pole.

Santa went to the North Pole to check out the area.  He saw that there was plenty of room for all the Manufacturing Facilities he’d need, room for his Distribution Center, a Post Office, and a large area for the Reindeer Launchpad.  The weather was great for keeping all the sweets and treats fresh and cool.  And the snow provided a great track for his quick Inter-Facility Sleds.

“The North Pole it is!   Let’s go set up shop!”  Here’s a look at what Santa’s North Pole complex looks like

Organizational Structure:

So now that Santa had a good idea of what is his facilities would look like, he would need to figure out his organizational structure.  As CEO and Chief Project Manager of the Santa project, Santa decided to appoint Mrs. Claus as the COO.  Over at the Reindeer Launchpad, he set up Rudolph as the Chief Transportation Officer.   As his CIO he chose The Woz, known for teaching children about technology.  Below, is an expanded view of the Organizational Structure and Staffing that Santa planned on:

  • CEO: Santa
    • SBI: Santa’s Bureau of Investigation
      • Santa’s Business Intelligence Agents
    • VP Business Intelligence: Inspector Clouseau
  • COO: Mrs. Claus
    • VP Elfen Resources: The Good Witch Glenda
      • Benefits Administrator: UNICEF
      • Health & Safety: Dr. Suess
  • Chief Transportation Officer: Rudolph
    • Reindeer Staff: Prancer, Dancer, Vixen et al
    • VP Snow Patrol: Frosty
      • Staff: The Snow Flurries
    • VP Security: The Nutcracker
      • Staff: Wooden Soldiers
  • Chief Information Officer: The Woz
    • VP Entertainment Media: Pixar
  • SVP Toy Manufacturing: Geppetto
    • VP Woodworks:  Sheriff Woody
    • VP Metalworks:  The Tin Man
    • VP Electronics:  Buzz Lightyear
    • VP Plush:  Winnie the Pooh
    • VP Dolls: Barbie
  • SVP Edibles:  Ace of Cakes Duff Goldman
    • VP Confections: Willy Wonka
    • VP Baked Goods: Sara Lee

The Plan:

Mission Statement:         Bring joy and happiness to all the little children of the world!!

Scope:       Good children will have their Christmas wishes come true by Midnight Christmas Eve.  Santa will not deliver toys to the Naughty Children, they will get coal.  Santa will only deliver to children; parents need to buy each other’s presents, eliminating the potential for Scope Creep in Santa’s project.

Major Stakeholders:  The Children, The Parents, The Elves

Customer Analysis: The Children of the World are split into two categories: Naughty and Nice;   With the help of the SBI (Santa’s Bureau of Intelligence) Santa will review a list of the world’s children, both Naughty and Nice, and will allocate gifts to them accordingly.

Assumptions:  The Santa Project runs with the following assumptions:

  • The children all believe in the Magic of Christmas.
  • Children do want presents at Christmas.
  • The presents that Children want are possible to provide.
  • Mrs Claus won’t divorce Santa over his work hours.
  • The project runs 24/7, with the elves working in three 8hour shifts around the clock.
  • There are unlimited funds for the completion of this project.
  • There is an unlimited supply of elves to complete the project.


  • Scrooge and his attitude;
  • Missing the midnight deadline on Christmas Eve is not an option, as that will cause catastrophic negative consequences;
  • The Sleigh will only hold so many toys per trip;
  • Santa must fit inside of chimneys, or enter other tiny spaces,  to deliver his gifts to the children of the world.


Process Strategy:

Knowing that his Process Strategy is one of Mass Customization, Santa knows that he’s got a very difficult process to execute, but the payoffs in Children’s Happiness are huge!  While the SBI gathers Intelligence on current trends and what the children actually want, Santa’s Factories will start manufacturing classic toys, components for modular toys, and other perennially requested non-perishables.  Weekly meetings will be held between SVP’s, VP’s and the SBI Agents to review Project progress.

Using Quality Function Deployment (QFD),  Santa will combine Business Intelligence, Demand Projections and the unique capabilities of his Elves to come up with the products that best satisfy Children’s desires.  Manufacturing plans will be adjusted to meet Demand Projections, using JIT methodology, to prevent inventory overstocks.  Employees will be empowered to make Continuous Improvements in the process, using TQM tools, and to document those improvements in the Best Practices database.

Change Control:

All department heads will submit Change Requests for any Changes to scope or process. Santa & Mrs Claus will review the Change Log and either approve or reject each of the Change Requests, keeping in mind the Deliverables and Deadlines of the project.


Scheduling in the Santa Project is of utmost importance.  There is zero tolerance for late deliveries on Christmas Eve, therefore frequent Project Control and Review meetings must be held.   Close attention must be given to monitoring the Critical Path of the project, and applying Resource Leveling, and Slack times.

Milestones: Below are some of the Milestones in the project taken from the Work Breakdown Structure:

  • Jan 1st – Sept 30th:  everyone gets time off; Santa goes golfing and surfing; Mrs. Claus goes to the spa; the Elves go on a Carnival Cruise to the Caribbean; Frosty and his Snowflakes go on an Alaskan cruise.
  • Oct 1st:  start Project Plan for the New Holiday Season
  • Oct 5th: Place raw materials supplies, deploy Santa’s hidden agents to collect intelligence on the Children’s Behaviors throughout the year;
  • Nov 1st: Start manufacturing non-perishables, inventory and store in Distribution Center.
  • Nov 5th: Conference call with all the SBI agents to review Childrens’ Behavior status reports.
  • Nov 7th: Review trends in children’s wants and needs, revise Merchandise plans,  purchase additional raw materials as needed
  • Dec 1st: send SBI Agents out to the world’s malls, to collect Business Intelligence on what gifts all the children want.
  • Dec 1st: Rudolph checks the Sleigh Maintenance Logs, and his Reindeer’s Flight Readiness levels.
  • Dec 20th: Santa checks and double checks his lists of Naughty and Nice children;
  • Dec 21st –Dec 23rd: Santa’s sleigh’s are loaded and staged on the Reindeer Launchpad.
  • Dec 23rd: Each department goes through their Pre-flight checklists
  • Dec 24th: Santa starts deliveries to all the children of the world, covering every household within these 24 hours.
  • Dec 26th – Dec 31st:  Retrospective Meetings are held, discussing the previous season; Lessons Learned are documented into Santa’s Knowledge Database; Best Practices developed through Continuous Improvement programs are also published.

Risk Management and Contingency Plan:

In any project there are internal and external constraints, some known and some unplanned for. The trick is to have a plan to deal with any potential problems, if they should come up. Below is Santa’s plan to manage risk:

Risk or Constraint: Contingency Plan:
Scrooge’s Attitude: Call on the Ghost of Christmas Past, the Ghost of Christmas Present, and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, to show Scrooge the error of his ways.
The Grinch: Return all Christmas gifts and decorations to the good people of Whoville.
Bad Weather on Christmas Eve: Track weather using
Missing Christmas Eve midnight deadline: Zero tolerance for missing the deadline; Use any and all resources to make sure the Project Time Deadline is met.
Sleigh has limited holding capacity: Use multiple sleighs; PreLoad the sleighs and Stage them on the Reindeer Launchpad. As Santa comes back with an empty sleigh, the 8 Reindeer are hooked up to the next sleigh full of gifts.
Reindeer will get tired: Each time the Reindeer are hooked up to a fresh sleigh, fuel them with their Magic Reindeer Food, to keep their energy levels up.
Air traffic interference with Santa’s flight plan: Track Santa’s progress using
Global Warming: Frosty’s Snow Patrol will measure the icecap and track the melt levels, while Dr Suess will set standards for Health and Safety in the North Pole’s environment.  Together, they will form a Sustainability Committee, and work towards LEED certification for the facilities on the North Pole.


Each child on the Nice list gets the specific toy that they’ve asked for, by Dec 24th at Midnight, and not a second later.  Children on the Naughty list get a sack of coal and a reminder of the rewards of good behavior in the New Year.

Product Specifications:

All toys must follow ISO 9001 standards, FDA standards, and for Pete’s sake, NO LEAD! All gifts must score in the 99th percentile for Customer Satisfaction.  Each gift will be wrapped in cheerful and colorful wrapping, and left under the tree or at the fireplace of each home.

Project Wrap up:

Only after every child in the world has had his/her gift delivered, can we start closing the project.   Lessons Learned and Best Practices will be documented for reference in the New Year, then the facilities can be closed for the year.

Project Review Reports:

Each department will submit a Project Review Report to Santa. The Factories will produce their Process Improvements, and SixSigma stats.  The Distribution Center will submit inventory movement stats, and a Closing Inventory List.  Rudolf, Frosty and The Nutcracker will report on Transportation, Environmental and Safety conditions.  Santa’s SBI agents will gather Children’s Satisfaction Metrics, including tallying the number of cookies left out for Santa.  After analyzing their data, they will come up with a Satisfaction Rating, to compare against previous years ratings.

Santa’s Retrospective:

Sitting by the fire, enjoying cookies and milk, Santa reflects on his special project to bring joy and happiness to all the children of the world.  With a feeling of satisfaction of another Successful Project, he recalled the moment of Project Delivery:

“He sprung to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew, like the down of a thistle:
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight —
Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night.”

—Clement Clark Moore


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