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Creating the Perfect Thanksgiving with Analytics!

November 21, 2011

I am in the midst of waging the first battle of the holiday wars – preparing for and delivering – Thanksgiving dinner! As the appointed leader of the skirmish and a nurse, I have spent many hours planning the attack.

First, the decision to go traditional or be unduly influenced by the Food Network to “put a spin on it” – akin to deciding how patient care will be delivered: Decision – Traditional.

Secondly, the crafting of the menu which should be straight forward when you consider it’s suppose to be a traditional meal, but it turns out there are many decisions to be made. Should the Turkey be frozen/thawed, Free Range, or Organic? And the cranberries, canned, frozen, fresh, or brandied? What about the sweet potatoes – marshmallows? The only sure thing on the menu is the green bean casserole. Changing the green bean casserole in any way would probably cause the epitaph on my head stone to be changed from “dearly missed” to “finally gone”.

With the menu completed, it’s time to begin the procurement plan of attack by developing the grocery list. The grocery list contains not only the description of the required items for the meal, but the quantity needed. Here’s where that nursing management background really kicks in and exerts its influence on the holiday meal. If nursing management taught me anything, it taught me the importance of knowing exactly what you need to get the job done – Hours Per Patient Day – HPPD! How, you ask, does this apply to my development of the grocery list?

I have developed a holiday meal metric, based on nursing’s tried and true HPPD, called Quantity Per Holiday Guest – QPHG! I simply determine what a single person requires to be satisfied with the meal portions and then multiply it by the number of expected guests. This results in my Quantity Per Holiday Meal – QPHM – metric.

If 1 Holiday Guest = 1 lb. Turkey (need to account for weight of bones etc.) then my QPHG = 1 lb.

Therefore 15 Holiday Guests X 1 lb. Turkey = 15 lbs. of Turkey! Or QPHM = 15 lbs.

So for every item on the grocery list I calculate the Quantity Per Holiday Guest (QPHG) and then multiple it by the number of guests I expect to serve to get the Quantity Per Holiday Meal (QPHM). Grocery list completed!

Next is the actual tactical plan for the execution of the meal. I create a detailed day by day plan – a.k.a The Schedule – for the crafting of each element of the meal and assign specific tasks to specific family members. It is here that some care need to be taken to match a family members skills to the task. Assigning the wrong job to the wrong person could spell disaster. Much like the time I gave the pre-teens the job of polishing the silver only to have a pretty scary sword fight play out with the knives – lesson learned!

If everything comes together as planned, I have also defined a metric for evaluating the actual success of the holiday meal once completed. That metric entails calculating the percentage of recumbent holiday guests and multiplying that number by the actual percentage of food consumed adjusted for expected leftovers. The calculation looks like this:

((# Recumbent Holiday Guests/Total # Holiday Guests) X 100)


(% Actual Food Consumed + 20% fixed adjustment for expected Leftovers)

So by my calculations, the goal is to have everyone recumbent and 80% of the food gone when it’s all said and done!

Variance reports for performance outside these expectations will be due one week from Thursday! (relax, Susan, relax!)

Nursing and Analytics…ya gotta love it!

Happy Thanksgiving!

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