A long time ago I was assigned to a project that involved me creating a course covering a computer system used on wind farms across the globe. This system allowed operators to control aspects of the wind farm’s production and monitor the status of wind turbines. Simple enough, right? All I needed was access to a multimillion dollar functioning wind farm so that I could test out the system, figure out what needed to be taught and make adjustments all while the wind farm was producing power.
But who would let me “play around” on their wind farm?
Turns out no one. So, the solution was to use a simulated environment, using virtual machines that act as the system-servers with additional servers acting as wind turbines, complete with all the correct signals necessary to pretend to be real. This simulated environment was created by a small company from Denmark and to be installed in the training facility so that customers can learn to use the system safely. At least that was the plan.
I wish I could say the project went off without a hitch, but unfortunately there were hitches aplenty. The first hitch was that the project was not properly scoped – there was simply an idea to create the system at some date and then make the training. Had I known of Greer’s ID Project Management Model (2008) at the time I would have stayed in Phase I: Project Planning before ever passing go (Determining scope and organizing the project would have been the rule of the day). Unfortunately, at the time I did not know enough to speak up and scope the project before moving on.
The second hitch was that the system I was to create content on, was not owned by me we had no budget for maintenance and the training was an afterthought. This made it difficult to create a team, confirm their participation and draw up work-orders (Portny, et al, 2008.) It is difficult to get others to work when there is no way to pay them…
The last and probably biggest hitch was simply my lack of experience and to be honest my poor business skills. This was a good chance for me to fail, and fail I did. I did not find a mentor, did not seek input, and overall did not drive the project. I was stuck in individual contributor mode. This hurt the project’s success immensely. I was my own worst enemy!
Ultimately the project fizzled and a course was semi-created using other means that did not deliver on what we promised. This is a lesson that I had to learn the hard way, but I desperately needed to learn it.
Do it better next time!
So, what could I do the next time? How could I have run this project to a successful outcome instead of into the ground? First I could have taken the time to consider the five phases that every project passes through:
- Conceive phase: an idea is born.
- Define phase: a plan is developed.
- Start phase: a team is formed.
- Perform phase: the work is done.
- Close phase: the project is ended (Portny, et al, 2008.)
I never made it past phase 1! There was an idea, but no plan was ever developed. This leads me to the biggest thing that I could have truly done better – and that was to actually manage the project. I was reacting to the environment and trying to adapt to the situation rather than outlining the end state and working towards those goals. I was not assertive enough and I did not ask questions when I felt like I needed answers. I was faking it until I made it and it was never made…
Greer, M. (2008, July 4). Greer’s ID Project Management Model. Retrieved from http://michaelgreer.biz/?p=5664
Portny, S. E., Mantel, S. J., Meredith, J. R., Shafer, S. M., Sutton, M. M., & Kramer, B. E. (2008). Wiley Pathways Project Management. Planning, scheduling, and controlling projects. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.