Reunion dinners are like project work

Merry metal Tiger year! If your family observes the lunar new year, you would have had the traditional reunion dinner over this past weekend.

Merry metal Tiger year! If your family observes the lunar new year, you would have had the traditional reunion dinner over this past weekend.

As we trickled back to work after the long weekend, my friends and colleagues exchanged updates about our family reunions--always an enthralling experience for most, to say the least. Don't even get me started on mine.

It's a pity that as we grow older, family gatherings seem to get fewer and reduced to just the obligatory once-a-year lunar reunion. And even that annual get-together may seem like a chore for some.

I thought about why that happens and saw some parallels with the corporate world.

When we were eager young kids and our parents themselves young, family gatherings were fun, enjoyable and an opportunity for the children to talk about a new toy and the adults to exchange parenting tips.

As time passes and the children turn into adults, and the adults turn into jaded retirees, our families become more nuclear and we no longer see value in family reunions. Host families grumble about having to spend money and time prepping reunion dinners that everyone else gets to enjoy at their expense.

Even potluck dinners become a chore, where some insist on showing up empty-handed and the others complain about why they were allowed to show up empty-handed.

And yet, in every family, there's usually a "campaigner", the one who's most enthusiastic about getting everyone together and who evangelizes the importance of blood ties. And let's not forget the "black sheep", the loafer who celebrates sloth and gobbles down family feasts without chipping in a single cent, or sweat.

As I thought about it, I realized I'd just described the corporate environment in some places, particularly in relation to project work that involves several team members across the various departments in the company.

At the start of a project, everyone's fresh and new, and super enthusiastic about getting the ball rolling...keeping the ball rolling, however, is another matter altogether.

There's also usually a project lead, the one who spearheads the collaborative effort and urges everyone to do their part and meet deadlines. And there're the black sheep, the ones who sit back, relax, and let others do most of the work, and still expect to be credited when the project is completed. And there are then the disgruntled lot who do their share of the work and get upset when their teammates don't.

Whether it's about reunion dinners or IT projects, it's very easy to get complacent, get caught up in the daily grind and lose sight of the key objective.

In any project work that involves multiple parties, and personalities, there will always be differences--be it in aptitude or attitude. It's not practical to expect everyone to have the same level of competency and to get along all the time, every time.

Over the years, I've on occasion handled tasks that should have been under another's purview. I did so for various reasons, whether it was because they couldn't cope with the load or weren't able to manage the work.

When I get asked why I'm helping to cover "someone else's ass", I usually reply that my main goal is always to get the job done. It's about identifying the bottlenecks and helping to fix the clogs so that at the end of the day, the job gets done and the key objective is achieved. So I don't really care if someone's behind is exposed...maybe he needed some fresh air...

Reunion dinners are like that, aren't they? Ultimately, the goal is to renew family ties and help ensure our kids will still be able to recognize their relatives when they meet them on the streets.

Sure, not everyone is going to contribute the same portion of money or sweat or time. But those who do give should do so without expecting any fair returns, and those who don't should be accepted as they are, imperfections included.

After all, isn't it better to live life without grudge?