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The Boring Indicator

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Thomas A. Edison

gallagherSept10I recently had the privilege of spending an entire weekend with my project team where we experienced the long awaited and long anticipated culmination of an extensive upgrade to the basic research platform for a major pharmaceutical company.

The project work was difficult. The planning was tedious and painstaking. The project involved a massive data migration in tandem with the integration of over 70 applications across 30,000 high tech users around the globe. When “GO LIVE” weekend finally arrived, anxiety was running high. But, the execution was flawless. And, what took me by surprise about the big finale was that instead of the hurry and scurry, react and recover that I have seen on so many other projects, this one was downright boring. There was zero drama, no hiccups, just the process and execution of that process.

It reminded me that I have seen this phenomenon on other well planned, well executed projects. It also reminded me of the times when I have experienced the complete opposite during crunch time, clearly a result of poor planning, flawed process and/or less-than execution. It was so striking to me that I now refer to my prediction of the success of a project as the ‘Boring Indicator’— meaning that project stakeholders are so well prepared and the team is so well rehearsed that come game day that it is almost boring.

This anticlimactic finish is a result of triggering, testing and re-testing all the potential surprises throughout the various environments (DEV, TEST, UAT, etc.). Our release plan became more robust and accurate as the majority of potential problems had already been deliberately elicited and the proverbial “learning curve tax” had been paid well in advance. All the drama, hiccups, hurry and scurry were all teased out during the project leading up to GO LIVE.

As we all know, projects are temporary endeavors and often come with a considerable amount of uncertainty and knowledge gaps. These knowledge gaps are where the success (or failure) of the project lies. It is filling these gaps where you can finally find project success. My experience has been to try to find as many gaps as early as you can so when it is time to cross the finish line you can lead your team with the confidence in knowing there will be little drama, solid outcomes and yes – even boredom.

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