Thursday, September 15, 2005

Train Wrecks - Part I

Bad projects. Who among us has not been involved in at least one? I know I have been involved in a few...and survived!

Today, I spent some time with a group of people who are living with the results of a train wreck that is paralyzing their company’s ability to execute on opportunities (thankfully, this train wreck is not affecting my company).

Tonight I started thinking about what to do--and do differently--to avoid having projects turn into train wrecks. During my search I came across a presentation given by Scott Berkun to the BayCHI in May of 2005 entitled, “What to do when things go wrong.” First, Berkun's definition of a train wreck:

  • We know we cannot meet the goal
  • No one is happy, everyone is frustrated
  • Things keep changing, but little progress made
  • We do not know if we are able to solve the problem
  • We do not agree on the existence of problems
  • We do not know who’s job it is to fix them

After the train is off the tracks, the problems tend to multiply:

  • Disconnect between...
    – customers and team
    – business / engineering / design organizations
    – management and team
    – the team and reality
  • Confused and confusing requirements
  • Poor architecture decisions
  • Poor UI design decisions
  • Management is ineffective at leading team

It almost goes without saying that train wrecks are frequent, and sometimes you can't avoid being in one. Still, there are things you can do to stay out of danger and, when you find yourself headed toward disaster, get yourself out of the wreckage. I'll offer my thoughts on avoidance and escape in a future Train Wreck post.

The photo: Famous photograph of a famous train wreck in Paris where the train failed to stop at the back of the station...exactly like some projects I've been involved with.


At 11:28 AM, Blogger Poster said...

You have a very good blog Tor. Informative and well rounded, asthetic, colorful, balanced.


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