All I want to know is how this project will fail, so I can avoid doing that #HoskWisdom
Project plans have goals, milestones and deliverables. They have optimistic paths into the future and run into trouble when the inevitable problems jump up and smash you in the face.
Predict your potential problems and you can resolve them before they become problems. Focus on what might go wrong and you can create plans to prepare for it. Do your thinking before the event when you have time and you will have the answers ready for when you have to act.
Mike Tyson warns of the danger of project plans
“Everyone has a plan, until you are punched in the face” — Mike Tyson
Predict your problems
The best person to predict the problems that might occur on the project you are working on, is the team working on the project. There are common problems, but each project can create completely new problems.
A popular method to predict problems is to perform a premortem, like a post mortem but before the death of your project 🙂
- Performing a Project Premortem
- The Pre-Mortem: A Simple Technique To Save Any Project From Failure
Premortems are effective because no one is to blame for potential problems, it encourages people to raise potential problems. Premortems can be more effective than post mortems because in a post mortem people are being defensive and protecting themselves rather than diagnosing the actual causes of the problems. Post Mortems can suffer from people rewriting history to support their actions and justify their actions.
Premortem’s help you find potential sources of failure and give you a chance to resolve small problems before they become big problems.
A premortem could start
- “The production go live failed disastrously because…..” or “
- “What are we nervous about”
- “What could go wrong which would cause us the most problems”
- “what’s like to go wrong”
- “what’s the biggest risk”
- “what happens if this person gets kidnapped”
- The project was a colossal failure because…..”
The group can suggest reasons the project could fail, discuss the causes and what steps we can take to mitigate the problem. Focus on the top ten and work out what you can do to stop those problems from happening.
Plans go wrong and need to change, planning for problems lets react strategically if those problems occur. Planning for problems allows you to use time before the event to be ready during the event. When problems happen in an event, you don’t have time to think, which is why you should use the quiet time before to plan your response.
The best time to fix a roof is when the sun is shinning, not in a thunderstorm. The best time to plan for big problems in a one off event, is before the event has started. You can stop some problems from occuring, have plans for when other problems occur
Define your fears
I was watching a Tim Ferris TED talk — Why you should define your fears instead of your goals and a blog post — Fear-Setting: The Most Valuable Exercise I Do Every Month. which offers a similar approach
Define — prevent — prepare
- Define: List the worst things that could happen or the significant problems
- Prevent: List how you can stop the items above
- Repair: If the worst happens, list how to repair each bad thing.
- Have others resolved this problem or similar problems, learn from their experience and avoid their mistakes
If you think you don’t have time, what will be the cost of not doing this? unexpected problems ruin your day
Thinking about your project fears or what might go wrong is inverting the problem, it helps you avoid mistakes and prepare for them. There is a difference between knowing what problems could occur and preparing for them. Time is a tool and successful people use it to give them time to think. In the middle of a crises you don’t have time to think, so do your thinking before the crises hits.
The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago, the second best time is today — Chinese proverb
The coronavirus is a good example, the countries which got hit from SARS prepared themselves for future pandemics by creating a plan, stock piling, upgrading hospitals and were ready to act quickly. The countries which had to tackle Covid-19 as it was happening were behind, tried to decide as they went, and responded slower.