Have you ever been working on a
project, with everything running fairly smoothly when you realized there
was a little knot in your stomach? Some little nagging, aching feeling
right in the pit?
So many of us - especially we
women - are caught up in the pressures of meeting customer expectations,
commitments to deadlines, and dealing with the stresses of a project
that we fail to listen to that inner voice. I’ve had the experience
described above on many occasions, but only recently learned to listen
to it. I had to learn the hard way.
Several years ago, I was
working away on a web development project for my internal customer. This
project was a terrific opportunity for me – I had the luxury of
prototyping a new development methodology and new development tools for
the IT organization. We were exempt from the normal processes and
documentation customarily developed for a systems project, provided we
could map everything we did to the accepted, standardized documentation
set (practically unheard of in an organization regulated by Uncle Sam).
We were about one month away
from implementation of the system, when I realized I had been
experiencing this little sinking feeling in my stomach. Over the
few weeks it had been getting stronger, but I wasn’t able to put my
finger on the problem. So far, the project was going well – I had
terrific developers, the customer was a bit of a challenge but
manageable, the development process and tools were working well, and I
had the confidence of my management. What could be wrong?
One day, as I was feeling an
especially strong sense of impending doom, I took all the project
documents and spread them out around me in a conference room. I had user
specifications, design diagrams, workflow models, screen shots and
snippets of code. I stood there just absorbing it all – what was it that
was bothering me? After about 45 minutes, all of a sudden it hit me – we
had a serious design flaw in the application that would not allow our
customers to produce a particular workflow in the system. Instead of
optimizing their efforts, we would actually be slowing them down.
Obviously, we couldn’t implement the system with this flaw, so we made
the appropriate decisions to delay the implementation in order to
introduce the necessary design changes.
After this experience, I
learned how important it is to listen to this little voice – there
really is such a thing as a “gut feeling”. I had previously never
recognized that this was my subconscious speaking to me about the fact
that something was very wrong with the situation. I had felt it
previously, but chose to ignore it – much to my peril. Since that
experience, I vowed to pay attention to those feelings.
I was recently working with a
client on a vendor software selection project, and we were nearing the
end of the process. My client wanted me to continue with the
implementation phase of the project; however, I had this feeling in my
gut again. This would be a great opportunity to learn new software and
make a significant impact on the organization, but something was
definitely wrong with the situation. It was frustrating, as I couldn’t
articulate what the problem was – it was just a very bad feeling that
this wasn’t the right thing for me to do.
As a result, I turned down the
offer of implementing the selected software and immediately felt a sense
of relief. What remained frustrating to me was that I still didn’t have
a way to articulate what was bothering me so that I could explain my
decision to others. All I knew was that there was something wrong with
the project – it was a prime candidate for failure.
After thinking about the
problem and analyzing my feelings for several days, I finally realized
that I had a tool which measured the likelihood of success in an IT
project. I pulled that out of my notebook and started evaluating this
implementation project against those criteria. Once completed, I
realized that of the top 10 reasons for project failure, this project
was at high risk for 4 of the top 5 reasons. No wonder it felt so wrong
While I felt better about the
ability to articulate my concerns to my client, I also realized that I
had previously highlighted most of these concerns to management. My gut
was telling me that the real problem I was having with the project was
that my words of caution hadn’t been heeded, and this client was headed
straight for failure. Once again, I shared my concerns and project
evaluation with management and reiterated that I could not continue with
such high risks. It would not have been in my best interest to do so,
and more importantly not in my clients’ best interest.
The lesson to be
learned from these experiences is that it’s okay to follow your heart,
and take on the challenges and opportunities presented to you. At the
same time, beware the feelings and listen to your gut.
Making the Right Decisions
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