Thursday, February 8, 2007

Cover All Your Bases

One of the best compliments I’ve had as a Project Manager is “Ray, you really know how to cover all your bases.” I don’t think those around me at the time it was offered really understood what it meant. It is another one of those “lessons learned” frequently ignored.

Think of your project as a chess game. Each task or activity usual involves some form of decision and has an outcome. There is a large tree of possible paths and outcomes. If we plan and think through those outcomes, we can usually find weaknesses. Dates can be missed, budgets can be exceeded, and quality might not be up to snuff. If one of these things happen, its always good to have the alternate plan in your back pocket.

A recent example came up this week when a project participant asked me why they were developing a software demonstration using two different technologies. They thought it was wasting resources. The issue at hand is a certain technology is currently in use, but the client is considering another. The best way to show we are the right project to choose is to show them we can do it equally well using both technologies since they are not yet prepared to state a technology requirement.

Now of course those of you who work on larger, higher risk projects recognize this as a different skill set -- risk management. You look at the project outcomes early on to decide if contingency plans are required. More planning is done up front. In the lower risk and smaller project arena, just covering your bases is usually sufficient.

So next time you work on a low risk project, know "who's on first" and cover your bases! If more is at stake, a complete risk management plan is likely warrented.

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