Untrained staff, new employees, inexperienced technical resources. If you have been a project manager (predictive or adaptive) for any duration of time, you have had to work with someone who lacked some knowledge in a needed area. You have probably also had tight deadlines and not enough time to get them all the skills they needed.
This post really came about because of a project I was once on that had a very tight deadline. It wasn’t a tight deadline originally, but by the time it was handed to me six months of no progress had passed and the deadline was now tight. It was one of those projects that wasn’t a priority until they realized they needed it completed.
To add to that difficulty – I was new to the company. To add even more problems, the engineers we had onboard were all new to the company. If that wasn’t enough to sink the project – the engineers, the network guy, and I myself all had mostly Linux and Unix experience; we were working on a Windows web application. None of us knew much about IIS (*but I did hear a lot of “If this was Tomcat…”).
I won’t dive into the embarrassing things that were done to that server, just that it was clear we had a huge knowledge gap on our team. Probably the worst I have ever seen. At least no one asked, “What’s a load balancer?” or “What does inheritance mean?”
With a tight timeline, and knowing we had engineers coming onboard who were inexperienced, we managed to get them on a few days early and had them work with someone who could help give them some skills. I think any IIS (or Apache) server expert would tell you a few days isn’t enough.
For the most part, things went smoother than I expected at first. A smoother than expected start is almost always bad news. 5+ hours in an emergency phone call stumbling around trying to fix issues to meet our deadline type of bad news (because that is exactly what happened).
What do you do?
Obviously, avoid tight deadlines as much as you can. That isn’t very practical advice, you will almost always encounter those. Hopefully, not everyone on your project is as inexperienced with your tight deadlines like the project I discussed above.
- Balance out your teams as much as you can
- A mix of skilled long-time employees and newer unskilled staff
- Prepare as much as you can in advance
- You may need to get some training for the untrained staff
- You may need some additional time to work out some kinks in the process
- Also – don’t procrastinate, you may need all the time you have (and possibly more)
- Try to prepare a list of experts you or your staff can consult
- Even experienced team members encounter questions and new things – having some resources to help them can make the process smoother
- Accept it, don’t let it stress you out
- You can’t change or control everything. You have what you have sometimes so deal with it.
An additional tip, at some point you should hold a retrospective or lessons learned and evaluate how well your training decisions worked. It won’t help with the current project, but it may help with new and upcoming projects.
The project I discussed above was only about a week late. I was fairly impressed by that, especially since no one working on it when it was completed was involved in the timeline discussion and we had a huge experience gap with the company and the web server environment.