I hate being blind-sided. However, something, somewhere on my project was keeping me up at night. I was not sure what. It was more of a feeling than anything specific. I know there are always ‘unknown unknowns’ lurking in any potential future. Yet, my fear wasn’t that this was something I didn’t know about or couldn’t predict. My fear was that this thing was staring at me right in the face.
I’d looked at the plans, the risks and the issues so many times! Was I even seeing what was in front of me anymore? I came up with 10 activity options to work through this mysterious project anxiety and find the source (in no particular order):
- Look at the project and documentation with fresh eyes
- Pull out all the relevant documentation and plans from the beginning and start looking through it as if I had never seen it before.
- Tear up the plans and start again from scratch
- See if my new plan would still be the same as the old. Could I find anything new or different? Maybe that could the source of my angst…
- Have second set of eyes review
- Organise for someone else, outside of the project to review the plans and documentation to see what gaps, holes, misalignments, missing links they can spot that I have obviously stopped noticing.
- Workshop with the team
- Get the team together to go through a full review, explaining as we go, out loud, what we are doing and why we are doing it that way.
- Review assumptions
- No time for a full review alone, with the team or even for someone else to do it? Maybe I could just go through all the assumptions associated with the project. See if there’s anything there. Maybe something has shifted (unnoticed) and has gotten bigger or more severe.
- Describe and explain to someone brand new (someone much more senior or another Project/Programme Manager) – either really do this or prepare to do it
- To make this exercise even more powerful, this presentation should be for someone a lot more senior than me in the organisation. I would need to be prepared for ALL types of questions and concerns thrown at me. No stone should be left unturned. This would force a full and thorough review that should uncover the uncoverable – even if I never do the presentation, but just prepare for it, as if it were real.
- Reconfigure the dashboard from different views – Sponsor, Programme Manager, User or Supplier Stakeholder, Regulator, etc.
- How about just looking at the existing information from all the stakeholders’ points of view to see what they would see? I could reconfigure the dashboard to provide the information that is seen from the different Project/Programme perspectives. See if this indescribable concern pops out.
- Ask an expert (past, present or future)
- Speak to other Project/Programme Managers who have done/are doing/will be doing projects/programmes similar to mine (in size, shape, complexity) and see what their concerns would be/are/will be.
- Do a run through / mock run-through of upcoming planned events
- Not spotting the potential problem? I could do a mock run through of upcoming planned events to see what happens, where pain points are, where handovers are painful/disruptive/non-existent. This ‘rehearsal’ would need to be in a safe environment and be used as a ‘Lessons Gathering’ session to improve plans and team understanding of how the future will play out.
- Review any reference materials and previous drafts
- Review what got this project started in the first place – any Project Mandates or Briefs that kicked this off in the first place. Review all my early drafts to see that everything considered transitioned somewhere – either into a don’t pursue, deferred until later, or part of this effort list. If something fell off the lists, this might be the problem.
I didn’t try them all, but now I had several options for exercises to start my investigation. I started with the easiest – a review of the assumptions and then a review of reference materials and previous drafts. I found it almost right away. I now sleep well at night!
What has kept you up at night about your Project/Programme? Did you find the source? Would these exercises have helped?
What was it in the end? A missing form. A form we had recognised as required for the project. A form the regulator needed. It somehow ‘fell off’ the list of things to complete. It may have fallen off the written list, but it remained in my sub-conscious until I brought it back to the forefront with my investigative research exercises. Without this form, we may have been prevented from going live. At the very least, it would have been a troublesome experience.
Glad I listened to my sub-conscious, even if it was talking at 3am!