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1.3 Tips Before You Proceed

There is no magic or mystery in the ten steps of the catastrophe disentanglement process. They are all familiar steps that many software developers will have used at various times in their careers. The strength of the process is in combining the steps together, implementing them as a single aggregate with each step building on the previous ones, and doing so within a short, fixed schedule.

Before proceeding with the implementation of the process, here is a summary of several of the tips that are provided throughout the discussion of the ten disentanglement steps. These tips and others are elaborated at length in the upcoming chapters.

  1. Work in parallel.

  2. Though the ten steps of the process need to be completed in sequence, they do not need to start in sequence. In fact, parts of some of the steps can be implemented in parallel to others (this can save time). For example, step 8 (risk analysis) can begin as soon as step 3 (evaluate project status) is complete, and much of steps 5 and 6 (define and evaluate the feasibility of minimum goals) can be implemented in parallel.

  3. Expect resistance.

  4. Expect resistance to change; it is natural. The best way to deal with resistance is by enlisting the support of allies from among the project stakeholders and the project team. In cases where resistance is particularly high, enlist the support of senior management.

  5. Be sensitive to the team and to the stakeholders.

  6. Be sensitive to the emotional concerns of the project team and stakeholders. Team members will have legitimate job security and career concerns. Some of the stakeholders will have personal interests in the project that will not necessarily be financial or business related. Before proceeding, become familiar with the key stakeholders and team members.

  7. Keep within the schedule.

  8. The process can easily slip well beyond the allocated two weeks; this will happen one day at a time, and at some point the delay is no longer manageable. Treat any delay (even of a half day) as a problem that needs to be immediately corrected.

    Overcome delays by working whenever possible at a high level (leaving details to be filled in by the team after the project resumes), by using a project evaluation team, and implementing the disentanglement steps in parallel. If delays are caused by a lack of cooperation, enlist the immediate help of the organization's senior management.

  9. Do not proceed without senior management support.

  10. The disentanglement process cannot succeed without firm visible support from senior management. The process requires significant cooperation from all involved parties, and this will not be assured without such senior management support.

    The process also involves activities that will generate resistance from the project stakeholders and the development team. In some cases, it will be difficult or even impossible to overcome the resistance without the support of senior management.

  11. Encourage all involved parties to review the disentanglement process.

  12. The disentanglement process is more likely to succeed if all involved parties understand how it works and why each step is being implemented. Thus, while the description in the following chapters is directed toward the project evaluator and the initiating manager, all parties involved in the effort to rescue the project will benefit by understanding the process.

  13. Document decisions and findings.

  14. All key decisions and all major findings should be documented. This will save time, should the decisions need to be reevaluated or explained. The decisions and findings document should be maintained by the project evaluator and submitted to the initiating manager at the end of the process.

  15. Be open and accessible.

  16. Many of the concerns and much of the reluctance to cooperate can be overcome by conducting the disentanglement in an open and candid manner. This means no clandestine decisions and no behind-closed-doors meetings except in rare occasions when topics of a purely personal nature are discussed (they should be kept to a minimum).

  17. Listen to arguments.

  18. Be prepared to listen to arguments before decisions are finalized, provided they are of a professional nature (exclude political and personal interest viewpoints). After decisions have been made, be prepared to re-open them only if significant new information becomes available that was not previously considered. Be resolute about preventing undue delays in finalizing discussions and decisions.

  19. Not all problems discussed will occur.

  20. The following chapters provide guidelines for resolving many problems that may arise during the disentanglement process. This can be alarming. Remember, not all problems will actually occur—in fact, most will not. The guidelines are like a first aid kit; just because you carry anti-venom serum doesn't mean that you will be bitten by a snake.

  21. The key to success is a good evaluator.

  22. Of all the factors that affect the disentanglement process, the two that most contribute to its success are senior management support (discussed earlier) and a good project evaluator. Start the search for evaluator candidates even before a final decision has been made to proceed with the disentanglement process.

  23. Read through the entire process.

  24. Read through the entire process before proceeding. Many of the steps are inter-dependent. You can better implement each step if you understand the steps that follow.

One final point: There are no shortcuts. The disentanglement process is designed to be implemented in its entirety. Each step relates to the evaluation or resolution of a problem that, if left unsolved, is likely to disrupt the entire disentanglement process. Furthermore, several of the steps are inter-dependent. In fact, the final step (install an early warning system), which ensures that the project does not slip back into catastrophe mode, is dependent on the preceding nine steps.

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