Are there Cats Clinging to Your Wings?

Project Planning Tips for Minimizing Unexpected Casualties


Perhaps you’ve seen this video where a cat secretly stows away in the wing of an ultralight only to be noticed by the pilot and passenger mid-flight.  Both the look on the pilot’s face when he finally notices the kitty and the cat’s face as she claws her way to a safer position remind me of a common occurrence in Healthcare IT. 

So often, when IT begins the implementation of a project, a key person or group is accidentally overlooked.  Project go-live commences and that unsuspecting user or group arrives on the scene bewildered and holding on for dear life.    Like the cat, these good natured users rarely lose their temper, but remain calm and try to survive.  And like the pilot, the IT team must also remain calm and patiently react to the new information improvising their original project plan on the ‘fly.’ 

Although unexpected complications in IT projects or life itself can never be eliminated, there are certainly steps to be taken in every project which can reduce the likelihood of disrupted, unaware users.

  • Involve others.  Don’t rely solely on yourself to determine exactly who will be affected by a project – ask all the stakeholders to generate a quick list and then compare notes.
  •  Meet with Stakeholders early . . . and often to plan the project and discuss its implications.  Not all meetings need to be lengthy, but it is important to give people a regular opportunity to review the project and have time to percolate their thoughts on possible complications.
  •  Create a process flowchart listing both systems and departments/people affected.  Again, involve stakeholders in this aspect to ensure bases are covered. (Much of the exposure occurs when IT leaders plan in a vacuum.)
  •  Send a short, general email communication to the larger organization so that anyone who could be unexpectedly affected knows what’s going on and who to contact.
  •  Formulate an escape plan.  During your project plan, ask key “What IF . . .” questions covering things that could go wrong, and then formulate a backup plan to execute if they do.
  •  Create a test plan agreed to by the stakeholders ahead of time which will accurately test if the project changes have been successful and have those stakeholders actually validate the systems themselves.
  • Recognize those who participated in the project planning, implementation and testing by sending another short email communication after project completion.  Engaged stakeholders are the key to successful projects.  Recognizing them is the quickest way to elicit their cheerful assistance in the future, and besides . . . it’s the right thing to do!

What other items do you use to minimize the unexpected disaster in your IT projects?  Feel free to post in the comments below.  Happy Flying and let’s keep those cats off the wing!


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