Browsing articles tagged with " planning"

Making The Hard Decisions On A Project–Lessons From NASA

May 2, 2011   //   by Rob Drysdale   //   Blog, Fun, Professional Development, Social Networking, Space, Travel  //  6 Comments
Space Shuttle Endeavour STS-134 (201104290011HQ)

Image by nasa hq photo via Flickr

A Right Turn Instead Of A Left Turn

Some time ago, Karen and I put our names in to attend the #NASATweetup scheduled for the last launch of Space Shuttle Endeavour (STS-134).  Karen was chosen and went down last week and had a fabulous experience, but with less than 3 hours to go until the launch it got scrubbed.  Throughout that morning they had already worked on a problem with a regulator and had made up for lost time caused by a storm the previous day and it all looked good for a launch.  I was watching the tweets and through NASA TV saw the astronauts in the Astro Van heading to the launch pad when they turned right to go back instead of left and we found out the launch was scrubbed.  As of right now, a new launch date has not been set as they work on the problem and determine when the next eligible target launch date can be.

But We’re Going To Disappoint All These People

The launch delay got me thinking about how decisions like that get made especially so close to the deadline and how we could apply this thinking to our own projects.  Think about it, the President was on his way, there were numerous dignitaries, 150 #NASATweetup attendees, and an estimated 700,000 others there to watch this historic launch of the last shuttle flight of Endeavour.  Can you imagine having to be the one that has to say “not today”?  Have you ever been on a project when the executives are there saying “Let’s just go ahead and implement it and we’ll fix it later”?

Your Decision Making Process Is Key And Must Be In Writing

While most of us don’t deal with projects with the same risk factors as NASA does we still have to deal with problems and risk, but how we deal with it is key.  As Karen detailed in her post #NASATweetup – It’s a GO! Readiness Reviews and Your Projects this all works when you have everything documented beforehand and you have a formal process for this.  In essence, you have algorithms and decision trees that you follow that make sure that you make the right choice and don’t let human emotion and behaviour get in the way.  Don’t get me wrong, this was not an immediate decision and I’m sure it was not an easy decision.  But if you have all of your options and decision trees, policies and procedures mapped out ahead of time then the decision is based on those written policies and not subject to human emotion.

In the announcement of the delay Shuttle Launch Director, Mike Leinbach, stated:

Today, the orbiter is not ready to fly…we will not fly before we’re ready.

This was not a decision taken lightly, but after thoroughly  evaluating the problem and determining if it could be fixed prior to launch or if it was more serious.  But with such a short time to launch they had to make a firm decision, so they did.  In my mind, this takes a lot of integrity and strength to be able to stand up and say that they can’t launch.

WWND

So the next time you have a problem on one of your projects think about this: WWND – What Would NASA Do?  Better yet, when you start a project, write down all the possible scenarios, risks and decisions and a have a formal process so you can follow it when you need to.

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You’ve Made A Plan So Now What?

Jan 10, 2011   //   by Rob Drysdale   //   Blog, Professional Development  //  2 Comments

Well, here we are at the beginning of 2011 and we’re all back at work and tackling the backlog and emergencies that have arisen since we’ve been away for the holidays.  So what’s changed from 2010 to 2011?  The answer for many of us is often “not much”.

In a previous post I talked about needing a plan so we could see the big picture of where we wanted to go so we could establish a direction and relate what we are doing to the goals that we want to achieve.  Many times this is difficult for us and we have trouble working on the tasks that relate to our goals because other things get in the way and take priority.  It may also be that we have part of a picture of where we want to be in 5 or 10 years, but aren’t sure how to get there.

Do You Need A Mentor?

If you’re struggling with how to move forward on your plan, you should think about a mentor.  I follow Lynn Dessert (blog | Twitter) and just before Christmas she did a blog post Finding the right mentor on her site Elephants At Work.  It struck me that many people probably don’t have a mentor or understand why they would want one.

A mentor is someone who you can turn to and talk about where you want to be and discuss some of the perceived barriers or roadblocks and get advice on how to move forward with your plan.  Generally a mentor is someone who has experience in the area that you are looking for help in and they can guide you and help you because they’ve been through it before.  Think of a mentor as similar to a therapist, but instead of asking “how did that make you feel” they can give you practical advice about getting to the next step in your plan.

Over the course of my career, I’ve had a couple of people that have helped me as mentors.  While I wasn’t actively seeking someone as a mentor and I never called them a mentor, they really were.  They helped me to see what I was doing and how it contributed and how to move forward.  Sometimes it’s an ear to listen, sometimes it’s asking the right questions, and sometimes it’s just a bit of practical advice on what to do and where to go.  Two years ago I finished working in a role that I had for 5 years and looking back I regret that I didn’t make more use of a mentor as it would have helped me achieve more in what I was doing at the time.

Can You Mentor Others?

If you aren’t really in need of a mentor right now, but feel like you have significant experience, how about being a mentor to others?  You may think that you don’t have all the answers or know everything, but the truth is you don’t have to.  If you can even help people avoid some of the pitfalls you experienced it’s worth it.  But both the mentor and the mentee need to understand what area you are helping with as you can’t be an expert or experienced in everything.

In the last little while I’ve been helping mentor a couple of people on their careers and things they need to work on.  I may not have all the answers for my own life, but I can still help others and it gives me a chance to “pay forward” the mentoring that others gave to me.

Final Thoughts

So what do you think?  Do you need a mentor or can you mentor someone?  We all need help at some point.  We just need to learn how to ask and find the right person to help us.  Hopefully with a little help you can achieve your plan or even redefine it and change it if it needs it.

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