PDCA and Emergency Preparedness

PDCASome of you may have heard there was an earthquake and a hurricane that hit the Mid Atlantic this last week.  I see both events as perfect learning opportunities.  No, these are not learning opportunities on emergency preparedness.  Rather, let's learn about the PDCA cycle by Dr. W. Edwards Deming. Several years ago, my wife and I thought it would be prudent to put together an emergency preparedness kit.  We didn't want 6 months of TVP or anything like that.  We just wanted something for events that may never happen.  So, we planned for the unexpected.  We created a kit and packed it away.  And there it sat for several years.  So, after the earthquake, my wife and I checked our preparedness "kit".  It's interesting to see what you put into these things when you haven't had a recent emergency.  It's like opening a time capsule to a naive past.

After we did our inventory, we created an actionable list of  refinements. I swear, it doesn't matter if you're preparing for a zombie apocalypse, an earthquake, or a hurricane.   If you try to plan too much for one particular event, you'll find yourself with a lot of stuff you'll never need or use.  Low and behold, a few days later, here came hurricane Irene.  Fortunately, the hurricane spared us.  And with that, tonight we had a retrospective.  You may have guessed.  We missed something.  What's scary is you don't get many chances to do retrospectives like this.  So, we're hoping the new additions will not lead to wasteful spending on something we'll never use.

If you want to get something right, you plan, you do, you check, and you act.  Then, you do it again and again.  You never stop.

Ask Derek - Peanut Butter and Jelly Interview Question

I received a question in the comments as to what possible answer(s) I expect to hear from job applicants, if I ask them how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  First, I would like to point out, I didn't think of the interview question.  A colleague recommended I ask it, when I told her how I found interviewing challenging.  You don't need to give a lot of background to get someone's perspective on how they would do it.

Everyone knows what a peanut butter and jelly sandwich is.  They can wrap their heads around the concept.

How to make a PB&J

I'm going to go really high level on this because interviews are all about brevity.  I would first expect the applicant ask me which approach our organization traditionally utilizes.  (Organizational Process)  I would then respond waterfall or agile.  I would expect the applicant to know both.

Let's start with Waterfall

As a Project Manager, I would expect to read a statement of work, business case, or contract.  I need to know what need the project will address.  Do we need to feed one person or 1,000?  Do we need to ship the sandwich(es) somewhere?  I expect there to be a project charter.  I need to know the goals and objectives, scope, success factors, assumptions/constraints of the project.  I want to know project authority and I want to know organizational structure, so I know who is responsible for what and where everyone sits in the chain of command.

From there, we can go as heavy or light as deemed appropriate by the scope of work, budget, and schedule.  I'm going to assume the project is in order.  There will be a WBS, a schedule, and a budget.  We'll know what level of quality we must meet.  We'll know what resources we have available.  We'll know approved methods of communication.  We'll have plans to address any risks.  I'm not saying you need a formal plans for each.  Go as heavy or light on these as appropriate, but don't ignore them!  Keep the communication flowing, get the sandwich(es) made.  Continually verify you're within scope, schedule, and cost.  Make sure the sandwich(es) meet the quality standards of the customer.  Have the customer accept the sandwich(es), and go through project closeout procedures.  That will include getting paid, do lessons learned, and disbanding the team.  Let's eat!

So that I don't bore you too much, I'm going to break this post into two parts.  My next post will be if I had followed the Agile approach.  If anything, I think this should make for good comment fodder.