Plan to Fail

We live at a lake property so we're pretty far in the sticks.  We have an HOA, which contracts work for snow removal and stuff like that.  Last year we had several snow storms in the Washington DC area.  The HOA was not prepared for several snow storms in succession and we found ourselves stranded for 4 days.  Yes, 4 days!  But, it wasn't all bad.  After the first storm got us, I reached out the HOA and recommend they keep the community informed of what was happening.  Though we may not see a plow for a day or 2, we would at least know it.  Each time we had a storm, the HOA got better at informing us of what they were doing. Here we are, a year later.  The forecast was for 6-12 inches of snow.  I was curious if the HOA had refined their communications and snow removal practices from the year before.  I kept thinking to myself.  People don't plan to fail; they fail to plan.

We certainly did get the snow.  It's close to 12 inches.  I left the office early to get home before the snow (thunderstorms) arrived.  As the snow stacked higher and higher, we began hearing reports of people abandoning their cars on the roads leading to our house.  (They clearly failed to plan accordingly)  We even saw one of our neighbors get stuck at the bottom of our hill, blocking the plows from getting to our neighborhood.

So, how did the HOA refine their communications process from last year?  Did they fail to plan accordingly?  To the contrary, I feel they did a great job.  They designated community representatives.  We are encouraged to have an open dialog with them.  The HOA did send out emails informing everyone when the plows were going to arrive.  This year they took it one step further, by creating a feedback loop.  When our neighborhood was not plowed, due to the abandoned car, I contacted my community representative.  Though I had to leave a voicemail, she called me back within 30 minutes.  She assured me our neighborhood will be plowed this afternoon.  Without the feedback loop, they would have not known there were any issues.  And so, our HOA process improvement continues.

Communications vs. Customer Satisfaction

Communications Level Customer Satisfaction
0-Way (None) Very Unsatisfied
1-Way (Email distribution) Satisfied
2-Way (Telephone conversation) Very Satisfied

The Critical Path Week Ending February 13

January 28 through February 5This week we dealt with the great blizzard of 2010.  It provided me extra time to write.  Then again, it took that extra time I thought I was going to spend on vacation.  My wife thinks I live in a world where everything is related to project management.   I go on a little rant about treating your customers right and then also lend an ear to my colleagues.  Read how I handle being both the sponsor and the project manager on a project.


Snow Removal From an Agile PM Perspective

With our home getting hit with over 30 inches of snow in one weekend, I compared our HOA and the snow removal team to an Agile team.  Read how they went from failure to success, in one customer's eyes...


My Big Fat Greek Project

My wife compares me to the father on My Big Fat Greek Wedding.  I'm no Gus Portokalos, but give me a word, any word, and I will show you that the root of that word is Greek.  Actually, show me a scenario, any scenario, and I will show you how it can be related back to Project Management.  If that doesn't do it for you, just put some Windex on it...


The FedGov Fail Day 3

Jhaymee (@TheGreenPM) Wilson inspired this post.  I was frustrated the Federal Government would be closed for 3 days in a row.  I believed we could all be working, at least in a limited capacity, from home.  If the Federal Government could have a plan in place for H1N1, why the hell couldn't plan for snow?...


MS Project Task Types – Fixed Work – Units – Duration

Upon reviewing a vendor’s Integrated Master Schedule, created in MS Project, I noticed something very peculiar. Where some tasks could clearly be marked as Fixed Duration, everything was Fixed Units.  In the post, I include a YouTube video to help you understand the difference between Fixed Work, Fixed Units, and Fixed Duration...

THE most important thing is the customer

...You’re welcome?  Did I say thank you? No, I didn’t.  I offered a pleasantry. Just have a nice day.  Goodbye, our business relationship has completed.  Have a nice life...Listen to them.  Be polite.  Deliver value.


How Do You Know Your Metrics Are Worth It

So you want to create some metrics.  More importantly, someone has told you that you need to create some metrics.  How do you know if you’re just making work for yourself or if you’re just putting a spin on the same old data?...


Sometimes It Is Best To Just Listen

It was the first day our team had been together in a week.  The DC FedGov closures have really rattled people.  As contractors and consultants, we are not Government employees.  We play by different rules.  Depending on your contract, if the FedGov is closed, you may not get paid...


The Difficult Task of Managing My Logo Selection Project

Using 99Designs has allowed me to crowd source a design.  I listed the price I was willing to pay, the duration of the contest and provided as much background information as possible to enable designers to provide me with quality submissions.  We immediately entered a rapid prototyping stage...

Managing Risks and Opportunities

Washington DC snowWashington DC is in the process of getting 20-30 inches of snow, over the next 24 hours.  The forecast hasn't changed all week.  If anything, it's gotten worse!  At no time did the weather service say this weather event was going to miss us.  The Beltway has been in the cross-hairs of this system since the computer models discovered its formation.   That leads me to write about risks and opportunities.  Actually, for today, it's just risks.  When working on a larger project, you should always have a discovery session early on that will capture potential risks and opportunities.  Once these events are identified, you should quantify their values.  You'll also want to capture the probability of each. Once you've captured a risk (or opportunity), its value, and its probability, you'll know better if you'll be planning acceptance, avoidance, mitigation, or transference.  I'll save that process and definitions for a later time.  Right now, I want to talk about snow.

Yesterday at the meeting I hosted, we discussed our contingency plan for today.  Even before the meeting, we knew we were going to get hit with this weather system and it would impact the schedule.  This was no longer a risk but an issue.  The issue was relevant because our vendor has a contract deliverable due today.  Inclement weather was not annotated in their risk register so it was up to us tell them how this would play out.

Though I know you can't foresee all possible issues which may occur over the course of a project, you should make an honest attempt to identify them in order to open a dialog with your stakeholders.  Local schools systems plan for snow days.  They have documented strategies to deal with these events because they've learned their lessons.  Shouldn't your projects as well?

This snow storm is going to mess with a lot of people and a lot of projects, over the course of the next few days.  I hope we all learn a lesson from it.

Has weather ever delayed your project or pushed it over budget?  I would love to hear about it.