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Fear and failing


Remember the ski school instructions for the n00bs? Pizza to slow down and french fry to speed up. I was thinking about that  the other day during a run of shifted priorities and server disasters. I think we need a similar analogy for project management—cheetah and ostrich. Cheetah for the lean, mean, effective plan; ostrich for the haphazard, awkward lack of planning.

Cheetah! I have a plan. I see the end point. We’re going to make it! We are on fire!

Ostrich! Oh noes! The program doesn’t work. Maybe if I ignore it, that stack trace will just go away.

Cheetah! Dude, we are on fire!

Ostrich! Is that smoke pouring out of the server?!

Not quite the same as pizza and french fry, but you get the idea.

Consider working for people who always take the ostrich approach to PM. And then extend the lack of planning to an inability to consider all of the projects and the priorities when responding to new requests or problems. Or even bouncing between the two states—frustration city with disaster lurking in the burbs. Then there’s no time to plan, no time to think things through and the cycle continues because now you have to keep going back to redo things that were close but not quite right due to the lack of planning. But it also speaks to a failure in communication and to fear. If you don’t make a plan then there’s really no reason why the failure is your fault, but once your name is in there as responsible for some or all of the project, well, that’s pressure. And thus the fear.

What they (the planless) don’t realize is that having a plan is like a fear quencher. You know what to expect, at least in somewhat broad terms; you know who to go to for each part and you know what you’re going to get at the end. Far less scary than contemplating the great unknown of your project. So avoid the disastacle* and make a plan. And then follow the plan. That last part is just as important.

* still my favorite disaster term. Hooray, Better Off Ted!

Categories: Coding Tags: ,
  1. 2009/08/24 at 15:16

    As you said, Project Managers need to be proactive, fast, jumping at issues and not hiding their heads in the sand. I just published an article, attributes of effective project management, that echoes with what your saying on your vision of a good Project Manager.

    • gisspar
      2009/08/24 at 22:51

      I’d be satisfied with just some project management. It should be a required seminar for any graduate work.

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