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What Do You Mean It’s Not Ready? It’s Due Tomorrow!

November 24, 2014

Rodney, we aren’t going to make it.

Make what?

The launch tomorrow, the turnstiles aren’t going to be ready.

I don’t swear. I don’t swear at work or when I’m not around other people. It’s not a judgmental thing. I’m not horribly offended by those who do, it’s just that it’s not something I grew up with, and I find it easier to not pick up the habit as an adult.

About a hundred swear words and phrases flashed through my mind right then.

We had been planning this launch for 3 months. For three months I held status meetings every Monday at 2:00 PM Mountain Time. For three months my security analyst had assured me and everyone on the conference call that the turnstiles would be working properly when we launched.

This wasn’t our first rodeo. This was actually the 5th project we had run that required turnstiles. To hold back the information that the turnstiles were a risk and then only share it the day before the launch looked like a form of sabotage.

My job as project manager is to plan and drive our project, but I’m also a troubleshooter. If someone’s portion of the project is behind schedule, I have resources that I can throw at the problem. When needed, I have the email addresses of everyone up the management chain to our most senior company leadership.

Sure, everyone has those email addresses. They are in the company Global Address Book. But, in my case, I’ve had those executives personally tell me, “Let me know if you run into any roadblocks and I’ll be happy to help remove them.”

So, given a problem with part of my project, I can find additional ways to resolve an issue. But, when I’m given one day. . .not even a whole day, Marcus told me Tuesday afternoon that the Wednesday morning, 8:00AM launch wasn’t going to happen, I’m pretty limited in what I can do about it.

But, like I said, I’m a problem solver. I got with our account manager and we immediately started working on alternatives.

Maybe we could fix it with security guards?

You mean have extra security located at the turnstiles?

Yeah, they manually check the badges.

That might work.

I also started pressing Marcus for specifics about what wouldn’t work and why.

Just three days earlier we had had our final project planning conference call. We had a list of items that the client hadn’t liked during their security audit and they wanted them fixed before we went into live production.

Thanks for joining our project call. Let’s start with security. Any thing we should know about?

Nope. We’re good.

Ah. . .you mean the turnstiles are working?

Well, not yet.

Do you mean the security guards have been replaced like the client requested?

Not really.

Have we figured out the issue with the door alarms going off?

Not quite.

What exactly is your definition of “Good”?

I didn’t actually say that last line, but I was thinking it. That conversation should have been a red flag for me. But, I figured on two things. First, the turnstiles always came right down to the wire and they always got them working. Have a little faith.

And second, I really needed to believe that security was not a problem. I had a bunch of other pieces that also had to be done before launch. It was tempting to take the “Oki-doke, we are A-OK” response. So tempting that I took it

So, the day before the launch we do not have the security processes worked out. In these situations, the worst thing you can do is hide. They will find you.

I started sending emails. Lots and lots of emails. I shined a spotlight on the issue. We had our contingency plans with the extra guards, but if the client decided that we couldn’t launch on time, it was a $300,000 penalty. If we were in danger of paying that penalty, I wanted to make sure that EVERYBODY knew about it in advance. Eighteen hours wasn’t much of an advance, but it was all I had.

In the meantime, security redoubled their efforts. It wasn’t the analyst’s fault . We were working with a local installer who was new to our system. They just hadn’t figured it out yet. And they hadn’t figured it out for the past 3 months.

As often happens, after I pulled the fire alarm by sending all my emails, 5 hours later the problem finally got resolved. It wasn’t perfect, but it met the client requirements.

Crisis averted. But also, crisis postponed. Our security team had nearly knocked the entire project off the tracks just as we were about to cross the finish line. What should I do? What would you do?

I considered emailing his boss, and our VP of Project Management and Security. But to what end? Punishment? Retaliation? Frustration?

Was I thinking about throwing this person under the bus because I was angry or because it was for the good of the project?

Finally the account manager suggested we wait. That we wait until the next project and then give security less flexibility; make the security audit be two weeks before production instead of 4 days.

Don’t go looking for trouble. Deal with trust issues when you need to, but not necessarily before you need to.

And try to remember not to swear.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and one grandchild.

Follow him on
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or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

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2 Comments
  1. Hi Rodney,

    It seems you knew about the turnstile issue a few days before the launch. I understand that you trusted the technical team but expecting that everything will work as it should on launch date is pretty risky and is not (IMHO) good project management practice. It was probably a much better idea to schedule a testing phase at least a couple of weeks pre-launch to sort out all the issues and to allow some contingency (it seemed that you had full executive and cost contingency, but zero schedule contingency).

    I have enjoyed the post though – thanks!

    • Absolutely correct. This project was already on a condensed schedule. There was a $300,000 bonus/fee associated with coming in on time.

      Since security was the responsibility of a different group, I had limited influence on their deliverable. I was very aware of the current state of the turnstiles throughout the entire project. However, unless I wanted to accuse my Security team of misstatements, I had little leverage to get them to provide better information.

      Next time I will have this experience as leverage to force them to do that two week early test.

      But for this launch, you are correct, I had zero scheduling contingencies. Well, there was hope and prayer, but those weren’t actual line items in the project plan.

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