Though hopefully not my ‘Last Post!’



By Dr. Kenneth Smith, PMP

Honolulu, Hawaii
& Manila, The Philippines

After signing the U.S. Constitution in 1789, Benjamin Franklin expressed concern for its longevity saying “. . . in this world, nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes!”

I can’t offer you any comfort dealing with the latter ordeal.  However, while anticipating the former inevitability I thought – as a case example — my “Pass On Project” plan example might be instructive to help you alleviate some of the subsequent pain and suffering of your survivors.

While of advancing age – I celebrated my 90th birthday last December – I am still relatively healthy, mentally & physically active; as well as possessing an optimistic disposition – despite the volatile political, social & economic climate in the world around me.  Nevertheless, I was severely shaken emotionally last year when – without warning — an otherwise healthy acquaintance[1] some twenty years my junior suddenly died of cardiac arrest.[2]

Fortunately, our church was experienced dealing with deaths in the congregation — from the hospital, death certification, cremation, and religious memorial service perspectives — and Father Bert (our assistant rector) readily assumed the leadership role; assisting Peter’s stunned spouse Jenny[3] through the immediate stages of the ensuing ordeal.  But – on the periphery — what affected me even more than Peter’s death was the impact it must have had during the immediate aftermath on his ‘shell-shocked’ spouse to manage their personal affairs for her continuing existence.

Without being morbid, I empathized my spouse — totally unprepared – having to face a similar situation. Sure, I had already done the ‘usual’ recommended legal minimum — i.e. preparing a will and identifying beneficiaries, as well as appointing an executor for my estate. But now I realized that was not enough.  I immediately contacted the church to discuss what would be involved in my case, and pre-paid them for their eventual activities.  But I still needed to take additional steps to mitigate my spouse’s concerns & problems processing our personal affairs.

Over the next few days, random thoughts regarding activities, entities, and outcomes essential for my spouse’s coping, transition, and sustainability kept crowding into my head.  Eventually, I brainstormed, recorded, & organized my ideas in terms of our unique situation;[4] then slept on it. When I awoke, I added a few more items induced from my sleep, and reworked the list.  I then discussed the list with my spouse; and prepared some more-detailed documents to support them.

Much later – over the Christmas and New Year holidays — I visited my daughter and son in the U.S., and while there, discussed my draft with them as my designated executors.  Finally – almost a year after Peter’s passing, I followed up with Fr. Bert and Jenny for any additional inputs.  After constructive feedback from everyone, I finalized my detailed checklist of 40 discrete ‘To Do’ activities, organized in 27 subsets of a six (6) category Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) for my spouse &/or executor to implement, monitor and follow-up; plus a couple of additional immediate actions for myself.

Every individual’s situation is unique.  However, I subsequently thought a generic synopsis of my high-level summary Work Breakdown Structure (in Figure 1), plus a related punch-list[5] of activities and events to initiate and monitor, might also be helpful as a guide for others who have not yet planned their ‘Last Post:’


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How to cite this article: Smith, K. F. (2023).  MY FINAL PROJECT – Though hopefully not my ‘Last Post!’, personal story, PM World Journal, Vol. XII, Issue IV, April.  Available online at https://pmworldjournal.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/04/pmwj128-Apr2023-Smith-My-Final-Project-personal-story-3.pdf

About the Author

Dr. Kenneth Smith

Honolulu, Hawaii
& Manila, The Philippines


Initially a US Civil Service Management Intern, then a management analyst & systems specialist with the US Defense Department, Ken subsequently had a career as a senior foreign service officer — management & evaluation specialist, project manager, and in-house facilitator/trainer — with the US Agency for International Development (USAID).  Ken assisted host country governments in many countries to plan, monitor and evaluate projects in various technical sectors; working ‘hands-on’ with their officers as well as other USAID personnel, contractors and NGOs.  Intermittently, he was also a team leader &/or team member to conduct project, program & and country-level portfolio analyses and evaluations.

Concurrently, Ken had an active dual career as Air Force ready-reservist in Asia (Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines) as well as the Washington D.C. area; was Chairman of a Congressional Services Academy Advisory Board (SAAB); and had additional duties as an Air Force Academy Liaison Officer.  He retired as a ‘bird’ colonel.

After retirement from USAID, Ken was a project management consultant for ADB, the World Bank, UNDP and USAID.

He earned his DPA (Doctor of Public Administration) from the George Mason University (GMU) in Virginia, his MS from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT Systems Analysis Fellow, Center for Advanced Engineering Study), and BA & MA degrees in Government & International Relations from the University of Connecticut (UCONN).  A long-time member of the Project Management Institute (PMI) and IPMA-USA, Ken is a Certified Project Management Professional (PMP®) and a member of the PMI®-Honolulu and Philippines Chapters.

Ken’s book — Project Management PRAXIS (available from Amazon) — includes many innovative project management tools & techniques; and describes a “Toolkit” of related templates available directly from him at kenfsmith@aol.com on proof of purchase of PRAXIS.

To view other works by Ken Smith, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at https://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/dr-kenneth-smith/

[1] Jan Peter Wallum, Swedish.  Retired Senior Economist of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) in Metro Manila.
[2] Although his demise correlated with a covid vaccination, causation was unresolved.
[3] Jennifer Wallum, MBE. British.
[4] I’m a U.S. Citizen with a Filipina spouse, and permanently residing in the Philippines.  I retired after a dual career with the US State Department’s Agency for International Development (USAID), and the US Defense Department (US Air Force). Consequently, my spouse and executor – who is my eldest daughter in the US — will have to deal with the US Embassy and Philippine national and local government agencies here, as well as several US government agencies and private institutions in the US.
[5] A punch list is a construction management tool used to ensure that the terms of the contract have been met, and they are typically created during a punch list walkthrough of the almost-complete job site. This walkthrough allows all parties to observe and note anything that is missing or needs attention. www.projectmanager.com/blog/guide-to-punch-lists.