26 October 2023 Pete Lister
We all know the type of project we want to work on, it's well planned, has achievable milestones and a fully resourced team planned well in advance. You have a well-documented and rehearsed project methodology you follow. Everyone is clear on roles and expectations.
Unfortunately, life sometimes throws curve balls at us and we need to adapt (normally quickly) to a different landscape. This could be a local emergency or a large outage.
When this happens, it can be easy to throw out all processes and firefight but this can lead to confusion, stress and not achieving the outcomes.
Over the years, and more so in the last 3 years, I have worked on a number of projects where you are operating in scenarios that aren’t normal BAU but following some core principles will help keep things on track.
Seems simple but having very clear communication is vital. People want information and to be informed, whether it's for themselves to action or to update other stakeholders or interested parties. People are generally stressed and want information quickly and wont always absorb what is being shared.
Some principles to follow
Establish early how you will communicate.
Email is great for formal updates. These should be brief and to the point with an update on the situation, next steps and a timeline
Have a plan documented in advance and share with the people involved.
Shield the team and let them the focus on the doing and not attending status updates. You do this via email or have a rep attend if needed.
In an Emergency situation you often find yourself juggling multiple tasks and coordinating with various individuals and groups. It's not uncommon for misalignment to creep in, causing confusion about what needs to be done or what's being delivered. This is especially true when you're rolling out new or updated software.
Have a single source of truth (eg JIRA)
Be pragmatic about decisions (eg re-work)
Establish a Single Product Owner - This is important when you are developing software. They have the final say
Keep people informed on key decisions
When you're coordinating an emergency event, whether it's a brief outage or a marathon affair, creating a cadence is crucial to keep things running smoothly.
Regular time for updates via email
Have set meeting times and these are booked. People will get the muscle memory that these will happen at a given time
Regular releases. If you are developing software quickly, having a regular release window is impotant
Here's my takeaway for you when faced with the unexpected: Keep the Three C's in mind - Communication, Clarity, and Cadence. Think of them as your navigational tools when sailing through the stormy seas of an emergency. They'll help you steer toward your goals while keeping chaos and confusion at bay.
Here’s Pete’s and James's talk on, More than an MVP: the case for continuous improvement in the COVID era