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A Thanksgiving Management Primer

At pilates class Tuesday night, the instructor was inspired by the looming fat fest that is Thanksgiving (she herself had a cheesecake in the oven). In between poking us into puddles of perspiration, she threw in comments like "the average American consumes 4,500 calories on Thanksgiving day." That's almost twice any reasonably-sized person's daily recommended intake, and it wasn't much fun thinking about having that much more to push around in the next class.

She also happens to be teaching Thanksgiving morning, so we got lots of plugs for her class. Turns out exercising Thanksgiving morning is practical management advice, number one on this list of 10 tips for a thinner Thanksgiving.

Inspired, I thought of other ways to apply management principles to Thanksgiving.

It turns out the Wall Street Journal did just that in 2005, with An MBA Thanksgiving, in which it asked several management consulting firms to analyze the Thanksgiving meal and come up with ways to make it less stressful.

Key take-aways:

Apply the innovation fulcrum. You focus on the core offerings: the turkey, the stuffing and the gravy. Have the guests bring everything else. (Bain)

Downsize. Which is to say, don't invite guests that cause problems, regardless of who they are. This point includes a handy chart based on the food pyramid. (PriceWaterhouseCoopers).

Maintain control. Whoever's in charge of the meal needs to take charge, especially of managing tasks assigned elsewhere. But don't get creative and cook duck instead of turkey. (The Boswell Group)

Eliminate bottlenecks. Whoever's in control must delegate enough tasks to avoid becoming a bottleneck. (The Katzenbach Group)

Segment your audience. Ask your guests what they like to eat and do on Thanksgiving. Plan accordingly. Oh, and don't screw up the gravy. (The Monitor Group)

Finally, at the meal itself, you could do worse than pull a few tips from How to have a stress-free Thanksgiving. Me, I'm all for colorful vegetables.

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