No Excuses: Be Ready to Deliver What You Promised

Being without electrical power for half the weekend, got me thinking about project teams that run into unexpected obstacles. For example:

  • Third party software components that don’t function as expected
  • Software tools that prove to be insufficient for the tasks.
  • Code modules that cannot perform intended functions as currently implemented.
  • Servers or networks that cannot handle the load expected of them.
  • Office environments that are not conducive to knowledge work.
  • Team members who cannot perform to the level needed by the team.

Regardless of the obstacle, the stakeholders and senior managers want their software — not excuses. Overcoming such obstacles requires two things (in no particular order):

A Recovery Plan

Every mission-critical decision should have an alternative. If the decision doesn’t play out as expected, the team will need to adopt an alternate approach. Software components and tools can be swapped out. Code can be re-written. Servers and networks can be upgraded. Office environments can be modified. It won’t be simple or quick but you’ll be ready.

The keys are understanding the risks and having an alternate approach in mind going in. There is no way to prevent or avoid every difficulty but being prepared makes them much easier to manage.

A Decision Process

The team can only execute the recovery plan if they have a process for identifying failure points and cutting losses. All of us tend to stick with a solution approach long after the approach proves to be inadequate — call it pride, tenacity or human nature. Anything that is not working as expected needs to be caught early and addressed quickly.

If you know where the risks lie, you can monitor those areas and be ready to act quickly. Simply calling attention to a problem often motivates the team, and anyone supporting the team, to fix it.

The unexpected happens. Be ready. (Maybe I should buy a portable generator — or some extra blankets.)

Updated: October 31, 2011 — 11:03 am