Delivery without dramas

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Don't you think it is odd that us Brit's have a strange habit of mostly remembering our less successful leaders and their antics?

Take “The Grand Old Duke of York”. He climbed a hill to his stronghold in Wakefield, then charged down the hill again unprepared for the battle ahead and met with a sticky end as did his unfortunate army.

This reminds me of not a few IT projects I have been involved in over the years. Whether it is the sheer tedium of the preparatory work or an inability to recognise an unfinished but critically important piece of the jigsaw, it is truly frightening how many projects pitch over into delivery without anyone making sure that the wheels are all on and that the swords have been properly sharpened.

The very first project that I was put on a year after my graduation was sorting a distributed control system which had been shipped to site and commissioned without being properly tested, and in truth without some of it actually having been written at all! It was an absolute nightmare to sort out and the thing that the customer ended up with bore almost no resemblance to the thing that had been shipped!

Of course there are all sorts of explanations for this madness: politics,  payment milestones, liquidated damages, peer pressure, pride… The list of excuses is endless but as one of my colleagues was once wont to say to a Policeman perturbed by his turn of speed “excuses a plenty Officer, but reasons none!”

The trouble is that sometimes it just happens by accident.

I'm a bit of a PRINCE2 geek (sorry!) and am convinced that one of the reasons we get into such trouble is that we often fail to understand and apply the discipline of end stage assessment. We have a tendency to trundle along without properly taking stock of everything we set out to deliver and allowing seemingly small building blocks to be overlooked in our enthusiasm to get to the “interesting” bit. It is only later as the amount of time left to sort the problem has diminished to almost nothing that the terrible truth dawns. If we are “lucky” we can sort it out by working through the night, if not our project is properly screwed.

It might seem heroic to win out against the odds but it seems to me also just a tiny bit daft when the alternative could have been a delivery without dramas.

Let's raise a glass and sing a song to projects without dramas!


Posted by Colin Parker on 22nd Sep 2015

About the Author

Colin has been a project manager since 1997 and a member of the APM since 2004. Before going freelance in 2007 he fulfilled a number of roles, including project manager, service manager and operations manager for a software house. Since then he has been busy working for a number of large clients including Thames Water, Veolia Water, Vennsys and Babcock. His work generally includes a mixture of IT and business change with a recent focus on large contract transition management in the water utility sector. Recent projects have included an IT infrastructure transition, waste contractor business transition and an ERP selection project. Colin is a member of the APM Programme Management SIG Committee: Colin on LinkedIn:

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