Thank Goodness for a Project Crisis to Aleve the Boredom

This is my seventh blog in four weeks of officially blogging for the Intel Communities site.  In total I’ve received over 110 ‘hits’ which (keep in mind I’m a blogging ‘newbie’) means someone intentionally clicked on my blog and read it.  Still no comments from anyone so I don’t know if you like what I’m saying or not but I’m having fun writing these posts so I guess I’ll keep doing it.  As a reminder you can also find out more about me and connect at: www.linkedin.com/in/jeffhodgkinson

Today I came in very early as one component of my program team were having a FTF (Face To Face) meeting to discuss quality issues with a software tool they were using.  Without going into details the success of one tool was dependent on integration of other tools and if one had and issue there’s the domino effect.  After an overview they set about taking each issue and tracing it to the root cause then real time working a fix.  The plan was to continue for a few days or until the quality was 95% or greater.  I came in for the kickoff meeting and applauded the approach as to me it was a prudent act of the manager but to the team they were in a ‘crisis’ mode.

This got me to thinking and over the years I can recall about half a dozen times when I was on a team in ‘crisis’ mode.  Fortunately nothing I did directly caused the crisis and typically it’s never one person but a series of acts or events that lead up to it as the postmortems conclude.  Typically a ‘crisis’ in project terms is when something has happened – an event – that is outside the normal parameters of the project team to react as BAU (Business As Usual) and event has or will cause impact to others which could result in anything from business loss to real monetary damages to physical injury or worse.

We probably all have been in a crisis mode sometimes in our lives either our own or involved with others.  A minor traffic accident, losing a wallet or purse or keys, getting lost, to something more tragic are crises.   If it’s personal then your ability to remain calm and cope with the situation at hand and enact an effective remedy goes part in part to your experience, character, and maturity.  You put things in perspective, ride the storm, and know that shortly you’ll reflect back and chuckle.  Maybe even turn it into an amusing antidote to be told to friends.  About a year and a half ago, a neighbor, Shirley and her visiting sister set out on a Saturday to hike through the Superstition Mountains for the day.   Though adequately provisioned and following known trails they somehow got lost toward the evening.  No problem they had cell phones and could call for assistance.  However, unknown to both of them is that the high iron content in the mountains act like a magnet and that effect tends to drain phone batteries quicker so they found themselves with dead phones.  Keeping calm they proceeded to find a spot to sleep and though fairly warm day, weathered the (still cold that time of year) cold evening in tank tops and shorts.  Fortunately they were found next morning by other hikers and rangers who had been looking for them after their husbands reported them missing.  I saw Shirley that evening talked to her about the experience.  Although they were hungry, cold, and admittedly scared (as there are mountain lions and other such hungry desert critters roaming there) they kept their cool and perspective.  I suppose the new movie ‘127 hours’ is a much better example of survival – only seen the previews but it makes my point.

Where I’m going with this is that everyone reacts differently to the crisis at hand from cool and collective to emotive.  Let’s face it, it’s a ‘moment of truth however it’s not just for the individual – it’s a moment of truth for the collective project team.  It’s also a great opportunity to instill or make changes in processes, structure, scope, personnel, etc.   The crisis event does become a catalyst for changes that may never have been made if the project stayed within tolerable boundaries but struggled through the lifecycle.  Perhaps it’s not just the project but the crisis event identified other related systemic issues and therefore prompted other needed changes within the organizational environment.  Even if the project fails or is cancelled, there is usually positive change made and increased focus by all.  Like a departmental reorganization, it tends to shake things up a bit and make changes where best needed and ensures no one is bored with the routine. 

Thanks

JGH