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18 MARCH 2017

written by Mike

BIG PROJECT SURVIVAL

PHASE I “THE PLAN”

 

Not so long ago I was a part of a team working on a big project. It was a high-profile job, and it lasted for several weeks. And it started at the back of another task. I’m not going to lie; it was tough. The project’s life was about three weeks. We worked every day, doing crazy hours. It was relentless. There was a moment when we though we are not going to deliver. The light at the end of the tunnel was dim.

Why am I writing all this?

Well, because it will happen to you. One way or another. There will be a project that will test your ability to focus. And last minute changes will mean that months of planning and preparation will go out of a window. It was mad; it was hard. But we did deliver. And it was a great way to finish off the year. Anyway, the whole venture gave me an idea for a short guide. A guide on how to survive the grind.

You better start to get ready.

PHASE I – THE PLAN

 Be flexible. Plan in advance but understand it will all change. Start with the end in mind.

We planned for the most of the year. Everyone knew it will be tough. And still, we were caught off guard.

Why?

Deadlines were moved just weeks before the start. Every day there would be an unexpected last minute change request from the client. There were delays, staffing problems, software crashes. It felt like there was a crisis every thirty minutes. And yet we managed.

How?

Yes, the plan was gone, but we adapted to the new environment. Every problem had a quick solution; we knew that somehow we need to make it work. And you will do too. Start with an end in mind. As long as you and the team know where you are going, the rest will follow. Flexibility will be your best ally.

 

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Have a proper chain of command. Check who is available.

You and the guys need to know who is in charge. Everyone can present different ideas but in the end, you will need one person to make a decision. It’s good to have a clear understanding who is in charge. I worked on some projects where it was just a full improv. No firm leadership.

And yes.

Creativity, no rules and all that. It’s all fine. But when you are in deep trouble, you will need a swift decision. You don’t want to be in a situation where there are people in the room asking “Ok, so what do we do next?” Believe me, I’ve been there. If there is no one else, assume responsibility. And move the whole thing forward. A squad needs a commander.

Second thing, availability.

If your department is a full-time staff place, then you know the limits. And as long as no one is ill, it should be okay. But if you need the help of freelancers, book them in advance. Make sure they know the dates. They can still pull out, so have reserves ready too. Remember, failing to plan is planning to fail.

Check your gear.

It should be a no-brainer. Make sure all your rooms are up and ready. Any updates and maintenance should be done at least few weeks in advance. If possible, check the limits and capacity. It’s alright when you have a simple project. But when the big one comes in, and you are running your equipment all day all night; that’s when the stuff goes wrong.

We even calculated how long it takes to have everything back on track in a case of server failure. Twenty-two minutes. And, surprise surprise, when the servers failed all it took was a quick tea break, and we were back in business. And the clients didn’t mind too.

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