Should I put in an excuse for a strong word like that in the subject line?

You might think so. And you are probably right.

Albeit, today I’m not. Let me explain.

Some months ago I took responsibility for implementing a system. Quite a bit of money was involved and I expected a well documented and agreed set of specifications. Even more a date was set for the “Go Live”. Reading thru what was available and what was agreed I found a number of holes, not to mention that the expenditure hadn’t been signed of yet.

Weeks went by to complete the specification, get agreements and have the expenditure signed of. Now, I thought, let’s get started in earnest! How more wrong could I have been. It turned out that with the lead time of the equipment the original “Go Live” date which seemed so far away was now unattainable. A furious business owner was the result.

To make matters more interesting the contract itself contained points of debate which were not critical but now were worthwhile to clarify and close. This wasn’t high on the list for everybody and constraints lead to further delays. I finally decided to award the relevant go ahead without everything in writing but in good faith (and a bunch of referenced email conversations). This got me some flag but finally things were happening. Did this make my business owner happy? No, he couldn’t understand why it hadn’t been implemented yet. My reply is still ringing in my ears: “Good things take time. It will be worthwhile.”

Weeks later we are getting close to milestone 1. The first part of the system is installed and looking great. I find some items that I want to change but overall I’m happy. Not so some of the people who would be using it. I invite some discussions and get an earful – well actually twice. Now that doesn’t look good but I’m confident that these people didn’t know the whole story. Wrong again, my business owner isn’t happy either and I’m feeling like the schoolboy in the principals office.

Some research is in order and I’ll get my facts right for the design, which I took for granted and agreed. Wrong again, some key stakeholders weren’t consulted and a major misunderstanding of the system use resulted in a design that missed the target. Well, not quite, other stakeholders were quite clear that’s what they wanted and expected. The installers are actually pretty proud of what they’ve done and meeting the target date.

The past days were then devoted to communication. And adjustments were made to the system addressing the business owners concerns. Will he be happy after all?

So, that’s the story from my vantage point. Let’s have a look from a different angle (that I is not me):

Some months ago I witnessed a project proposal that was debated on its financial merits, sign of and handed over to another project manager for implementation. Nothing happened for a while until the old system was put into read only mode. That caused a number of concerns , however with a limited time frame for this state it was manageable.

Then the Go Live date was moved out and caused us a major headache even with temporary facilities in place.

Finally the new system was getting close and I got a preview. I was shocked. That was never going to work. Discussion with the project manager initially didn’t go anywhere as there was a major misunderstanding what the purpose of the new system was. I involved the business owner and other stakeholders. The reality was without some extra budget it was nearly impossible to change.

Finally we agreed on a way forward. Not sure if that solves it long term.

There is a lesson in here. A big one:

Whenever stakeholders change in a project review all assumptions. Do not take existing agreements for granted. Opinions don’t count. Verify – even if it is the most basic thing. If you don’t … yes, subject line.

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