Over the weekend, I watched the film “Into the storm” telling the story of a catastrophic hurricane impact on a small community. It got me thinking about the parallels between hurricanes and programme delivery which sometimes feels like Storm Management.
Working in the food and beverage industry, I encounter significant project complexity, much of which remains unseen. Delivering solutions that are both user-friendly and cost-effective poses an intriguing challenge. How can we deliver quality and value in complex projects?
Projects are getting more complicated.
Projects are becoming increasingly intricate with demands for higher quality, quicker delivery and frictionless customer experience. Equally, the business is expecting efficient project delivery, profitability and tech that just works.
Hardware/Software systems are the vehicles to deliver the service
As the software/hardware improves, it allows the technology to be used in more innovative ways both in store and on the customers device. However it also creates a lot of interactions and dependencies to deliver the data that meets all the compliance requirements.
The customer needs to consume this service whatever web or mobile app operating systems they prefer, to order the food or interact with the loyalty platform. Like in the storm they had to change vehicle several times to survive the storm as technology develops we constantly need to upgrade and adapt. With the arrival of digital services and interaction with multiple vendors there is the constant upgrade cycle adding on to this.
Compliance regulations are like mini tornados.
There is much more compliance to fulfil at the same time from legal, finance, security, sustainability, data compliance, nutrition and allergen compliance, human resources and cultural expectations. Each of these compliance areas behaves like a mini tornado that has to be managed. As a result Project velocity feels like it is moving quicker, life is becoming more turbulent, stress is becoming greater, whilst resources dwindle.
Store systems are becoming more complex
Customers now not only want their food in the restaurant or cafe but also delivered seamlessly to their homes via these digital ecosystems and the delivery aggregators that have sprung up to fulfil this new demand.
Store processes also become more complicated with multiple accounts and passwords to manage across the different vendors and the constant challenge of maintaining good security. Added to that everyone from the customer to the store partner needs to know how it works intuitively with minimum friction and training.
This all means that what in the past might have been a relatively simple overnight upgrade of hardware/software becomes a multi-vendor marathon making sure all the data from the inventory, loyalty and menu management systems works seamlessly.
Interactions between the brand and the customers is crucial
The vendors are invisible to the customers but they need to work seamlessly to deliver the customer experience. Frequently, requirements are unclear or assumptions are wrong, and interactions and dependencies between vendors vary across different countries. The PM has to make sure that this is all coordinated and the ambiguities are ironed out.We often encounter motivated colleagues and vendors capable of assistance, yet they find themselves pulled in various directions by other projects. Managing the workload becomes a work of diplomacy to align everyone’s efforts and ensure timely collective project delivery.
Despite this complexity, regulators impose precise deadlines for fiscal compliance, single-use plastic tax, returnable cups. At the same time the business is expecting good returns on investment, this is all part of good storm management!
Leadership in the storm
In the film the father is the school principal bringing up two sons after the death of his wife. At the start he is focused on his job and there was a lot of tension in the family. The graduation day is interrupted by a powerful hurricane. As the film unfolds the family pull together in the midst of the super hurricane that threatens to take their lives.
How do you keep it realistic whilst delivering challenging projects?
The father focused on the safety of the school and his family, we have to get our priorities righ and manage the storms around us:
- Have a higher purpose, a just cause you believe in, and can relate to embracing the infinite game.
- Keeping the human connection foremost in mind and having fun in the process creating extraordinary experiences.
- Develop high performing teams that can work together with passion and perservance to solve the practical problems and make technology work.
How do you stop yourself from burning out?
Spoiler alert the son and his girlfriend were going to drown after surviving the hurricane but the father was able to persuade a group of strangers to help him save them. We too have to find ways to ask for help and persuade the vendors and colleagues support us to make the project a success.
- Put your loved ones first not your job, at the end of the day it’s only worth while if you come home to those you love. Set boundaries for yourself time when you work don’t work find the routine that works for you.
- Learn how best to work with your team what is the best way of collaborating together to get things done.
- Have a conscious awareness of your emotions, and work on developing your emotional intelligence. While at the same time combining your knowledge, passion and purpose without anxiety to give you the gravitas you need to do your job.
How to weather the storm?
The family were able too find each other and then find shelter together and through ingenuity and problem solving work together to survive the hurricane.
- Focus on the problems that you can influence or that you can have a positive affect on, have the right mindset. Practice forgiveness and grace, people say and do unexpected things under stress. Have fun and enjoy the journey and Be generous.
- Expect the best but prepare for the worse. It’s impossible to predict every risk or combination of problems so understand the power of knowing what you don’t know.
- Learn from the mistakes how can we make it better next time?
- Prioritise rest, you are no good to anyone without good rest so get to sleep on time.
I hope you enjoy watching the film and your projects don’t turn into hurricanes but the increasing complexity and interdependency of technology means we all need to find new ways of working and most importantly of all enjoy the journey of discovery. Some final thoughts on hurricane project delivery.
I think you can see clear parallels and stages of the storm and project delivery in these complex environments is the new norm:
- Calm before the storm = Project initiation – Requirements gathering understanding the change management that is required.
- Tropical disturbance = Project planning – Realisation of the complexities of the project and how can we solve the difficult problems.
- Tropical depression = Project execution – The plan – Understanding the full scale and coming up with a plan that will actually solve all the difficult problems and agreeing the scope and scale with the vendors.
- Tropical storm = Project execution – Problem solving the unknowns – The rough and tumble of the project delivery where technologies have got to start to work together from different vendors. Compliance standards have to be met in all the categories and stakeholders needs to be happy with the result.
- Hurricane = Project monitoring and control – The eye of the storm where everything comes together, problems are solved the testing is in progress. Real customers are using the product, edge cases are being discovered solutions have to be found. This can be quite a bumpy point where sometimes compromises need to be made.
- Calm after the storm = Project closure transition to Business As Usual – We survived, the project was delivered, the customers are happy and the business is successful.