Recently I got involved in a technology project that had been stalled for six years. The end goal seemed straightforward enough; to connect a fiber optic line into a building to complete a link that would allow high performance network speeds into the building.
The purpose of the line was to provide fast access for staff inside the building to access files on servers housed 400 miles away. A sister organization several miles away that had fiber successfully run into their building has enjoyed fast access, efficient computer response times, and expected rates of productivity.
When I toured the facilities for the staff who did not have the fiber, response times were very poor, sometimes taking almost an hour to open a simple two-page document, and they estimated their productivity was down by 20%. At the end of the day as I was leaving a staff member approached me with a sheaf of presentation printouts in his hand. He wasn’t mad, but he was obviously frustrated. He explained that he had a public meeting to go to and had been waiting two hours for his twenty page presentation to printout and now he had to leave and with a partial printout. Feeling his frustration and pain I was determined to do something about it.
When I researched the situation, apparently seven years earlier, the fiber installation company at another location two hundred miles to the North had accidentally cut another Telecom line and had been careless and slow in repairing the damage. Unfortunately the building owner in that case was the same building owner for the location I was looking at, and so they put a stop to the installation to prevent a further issue.
In reality it was not a stop, but a stop until. In other words they wanted a simple letter having someone accept responsibility and a detailed diagram of the route that would be taken for the trenching and line run in the building. That was a simple enough request, but the manager of the installations at that time, didn’t know how to execute this so did not act. The manager did not know how to contact the authority required to accept liability for the installation and did not know how to create the picture. Over 150 installations of this type had already been done by the same delivery organization and this kind of documentation had never been requested before. This was a level and kind of detail that they just didn’t understand.
Even though the project had already installed the fiber in over 150 sites, they had never been asked to provide these two simple requests before, and therefore there was no role to take this on in the project and so the detail had never been done. Kind of mind-boggling, but true.
Once I understood this anomaly to the repeatable process, we worked through the details and got the project back on track.
I wonder how many projects have had a set of repeatable tasks and within that process a situation arose that did not fit the standard approach and if there is no one able to get into the details the anomaly gets dropped and is never achieved. It does happen, and people are impacted. As a project manager you have to get into those details and sometimes you have to roll up your sleeves and solve the problems to deliver and complete the project.