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  • What to do when you can’t stop the train? (A Project in Motion)



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    November 3rd, 2014

    Train Series

    Have you ever been on a project where stopping the train is not an option? The vendor is already contracted and started development. The infrastructure is being built, but the scope is sketchy, the resources are not identified, and no project plan is in place. Due to circumstances beyond your control and in some cases beyond the organization’s control, you must proceed forward trying to lay down the track just in time for the train that is coming. So, where do you begin?

    In any situation, admitting you need help is probably one of the hardest first steps. You need an unbiased person to take an objective look at the situation. This is where it is important to consider a consultant, not a contractor. The distinction that I make between the two is that a contractor is looking to be hired on by a company. This can bias their recommendations. A consultant comes in as a subject matter expert for advising on next steps and providing a plan. A consultant is not looking to be hired, but looking for opportunities to make a difference and make you, the client, successful. This builds the consultants credibility and reputation and the opportunity for assistance with future projects.

    As an MSS consultant, I don’t always get to start a project from the onset; sometimes the train is in motion and we need to start out with an assessment. What do we know? What are our gaps? If we can’t stop the train, can we slow it down? What’s our priority?

    In the particular project that I was assigned, defining scope was the first task so that unnecessary work would not lengthen the ride. Without the track laid out, there was potential for the train to be diverted off course.  Sometimes defining scope is as easy as asking what is the criteria for what is “In” and what is “Out”?  The next priority in this case was slowing the vendor down. They were overstaffed and soon to run out of work as the company could not supply the requirements fast enough. So downsizing the vendor staff became the next focus. We could slow down the train enough with a steady flow of fuel rather than riding the bullet train that was running out of track. Now that we could keep things moving and in a positive direction, this opened the opportunity to lay out the roadmap and address the gaps. You may ask why I didn’t start with a roadmap. Well, when you have a fast moving train and all those on board feel the sense of urgency it isn’t always easy to think clearly. All that matters at that point is GO, GO, GO!  You need the team to see the importance of slowing to go faster.

    Sometimes it is not your choice and you must proceed with trying to build structure and establish best practices as best you can. You can’t always afford all the bells and whistles, but you can have a scaled down version focused on that critical path.

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    Sandra has over 13 years of experience and is dedicated to achieving goals and surpassing expectations. If you would like to discuss ways to keep your project in motion, contact us at info@msstech.com.

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    Cite this blog post:
    MLA: Esparza, Sandra. “What to do when you can’t stop the train?  (A Project in Motion)” MSS. MSS. Blog. 08 April 2015.
    APA: S Esparza. (2014, Nov 3). What to do when you can’t stop the train?  (A Project in Motion).