In Hot Water
Todd Razor, our intrepid editor here at IowaBiz, knows that I push the envelope for completing my articles on time. But he also knows my track record for doing so, and he no longer panics with e-mails or phone calls the evening before a post is due.
This is one time we may have had an exception to that rule.
At 9:35 p.m., I sat down to write my post on project management for Iowabiz. I was thinking something nice and green in honor of Earth Day 2010. Oops... need to check on something in the basement. Hey, what's this wet spot? And this one? And this one? We've NEVER had water in our basement. I called my wife down. She went into bloodhound mode (she's really good that that) and was able to isolate the growing puddle to our hot water heater. Our 14-year-old-now-rusted-out-on-the-bottom water heater.
We were in hot water. Literally.
We scrambled to pick up some of the critical items, which generally don't play nice with a growing circle of wetness (stacks of my books, for one), and got things to higher ground. We called our neighbor, a handyman-extraordinaire, who was able to give us some good names of plumbers. He said he would get right on it first thing in the morning (so I hope by the time you read this, there is a plumber at my house). We also shut off the water and the gas to the current hot water heater.
So... that brings me back to my IowaBiz article. And I'm wondering how YOU handle the crisis-laden curve balls which come out of nowhere and land smack-dab in the middle of your nicely laid-out schedule. John Lawlor wrote a great post summarizing Business Continuity Planning for the organization, and many of his elements apply to projects. There are a few add-ons I'd like to make to keep you out of hot water:
- Maintain your project - make sure the infrastructure of your project is sound, that you are tracking issues and status regularly, that you are doing a pulse check, and that you make sure there's no "rust" or "leaks" showing.
- Alert early - a small part of me wanted to ignore the water when I first saw it. My wife and I were both busy. One of the kids must have just spilled something. But there was enough evidence of something wrong, I had to let my key stakeholder know what was up.
- Diagnose the right problem and cause(s) - our first thought was that we had water seeping up from the ground. But that didn't make sense, given the fact that we'd never had that problem prior. We wondered about possible leaks from upstairs. It was only after we pulled back the carpeting, saw the water (and its directional movement) that we were able to figure out the source of the problem. Be prepared to do some detective work and don't jump to conclusions.
- Know your go-to people - I called my neighbor once we knew what was going on. He deals with this kind of thing all the time, so he told us what to do and how to do it. Then he promised to have his contact call us first thing in the morning. Know who your project go-to people are, and treat them with the respect they deserve for covering your tail.
- Solve it quickly - I'll be heading to the hardware store in the morning to buy a new hot water heater, and doing what it takes to get it installed quickly and correctly. When one lives in a house with three females, lack of hot water is an emergency not to be taken lightly. On your projects, when the solution is evident, don't mess around. SOLVE IT. It may mean unpleasant things like firing people, but this is where the "Carpe Factum" mindset comes in handy.
So now it's after midnight and I'm just NOW finishing my post. I'm still on time for that, despite the huge set-back in my otherwise perfectly-planned evening.
At least my mishap provided some needed last-minute inspiration.