About 20 years ago, I had the privilege of working on a wireless data network build-out project with some of the finest professionals I have ever worked with. The time pressures were intense as we needed deploy very quickly to satisfy our investors. The lessons learned were invaluable, and I like to refer to that period as a time of Extreme Project Management. Credit for that phrase goes to my dear friend Jerry, the original extreme project manager.
Managing technology and systems projects is challenging enough. Doing so in an environment of changing specifications can be described as “extreme project management” indeed. When deploying new technologies with untested interfaces and complex infrastructures, the project manager must realize that success depends on more than technical smarts. It requires building a learning organization in which team members buy-in to the success of the project with all their heart. This requires that technical changes be managed methodically and without drama. I can share an example from the wireless deployment project. When faced with a new set of technical specifications, our NYC team decided that the best way to accelerate team learning was to SHOW rather than TELL.
Simply issuing a bulletin with new schematics and standards would have created confusion and would have led to field re-work and delays. Instead, what we did was call a “time-out” and invited field engineers, installation teams and construction managers to our office to physically demonstrate how the change was to be properly implemented. This allowed for direct observation of the change(s) and enabled a rapid-fire round of questions and answers from the engineers who designed the changes. In addition to resolving technical problems, we were also able to review supply chain issues to identify the most economic manner to drive the change(s). This accelerated learning and it allowed our team to take a hands-on approach to the understanding of the changes. For example, when we changed the way coax cable was to be connected to antennas, we had our field engineers do so on a mock-up with the entire team standing by to ask questions and identify potential Q/A problems.
There is no substitute for hands-on learning on a project.