Get it Right the First Time by Brad Egeland.

Nobody is perfect. We like to think we are sometimes delivering perfection on our projects or products we deliver… we are so proud of them. However, we really know that… no matter how hard we try perfection is basically unattainable.  Do your best – that’s all you really can do.  But when you are delivering a product or output to a paying customer, it is extremely important that you aren’t providing poor quality or error-prone output.  They say you only get one chance to make a good first impression and that is true.  But when we are actually talking about the engagements that we manage for our project customers, then it’s not just about the first impression we give during project kickoff.  No, it’s far more than that.  It’s about how we manage the project staff throughout the engagement.  It’s about how we manage the client and the communications from beginning to end.  And it’s about the quality of the work we produce from the first deliverable through the last dotting of the “i’s” and crossing of the “t’s”.  It’s about quality output.  That can have such a dramatic affect on customer confidence and satisfaction…and if you handle this poorly you may not get a next opportunity or second chance.

So what do we do about it?  Well, here is what happened to me and what I did about it.  I was delivering a high-tech software solution to a client on a projects – that was our project…delivery and implementation of a customized software solution.  With that came all the documents that you might expect to produce – the requirements document, the functional design document (FDD) and the technical design document (TDD) being the biggest ones…plus some other minor documents.  But all were to be paid for deliverable’s that the client was expecting.  So they were expecting quality, of course.

What happened when my business analyst went to deliver the functional design document?  It was full of formatting and spelling errors.  Not a real big deal, but the PDF program he was using caused some formatting issues he didn’t realize or notice so when he went to deliver a corrected 2nd version and then a 3rd version, they, too, were wrought with errors.  Needless to say after three poor quality versions of the same deliverable at that early stage of the project, our customer’s satisfaction and confidence levels had dipped considerably.

Plan, brainstorm and peer review everything

Once we pinpointed the source – the PDF creation program – we were able to create error-free electronic documents for the rest of the project.  But you can never really get past the fact that – on that project and with the customer – you were the project manager and the delivery organization and you allowed for the submission for approval of three very error-prone versions of what should have been an easy document to drive through the approval process.

From that point forward and on every project since, I have implemented new planning and review processes to help ensure deliverable’s get to the customer error free… the first time.  We mind map processes, we brainstorm to as close to perfection as possible and we peer review everything. Each member of the project team spends some time looking at each deliverable. It even carries over to status reports and the project schedule deliver as well because I make sure my team sees both and ok’s both before they go to the client.  For those two items, it’s more to make sure they understand it and know what’s going on than for the peer review, but it does give me several other pairs of eyes looking at what I’m putting together for the project client so I’m not sending them mis-spelled and mis-communicated project status information.  Sloppy is sloppy and I don’t want it on my projects.

Summary / call for input

There comes a point in every project when we must turn something over to the client.  It may be one deliverable at the end or it may be twenty deliverable’s throughout.  The common theme we want to strive for is consistent on time delivery of quality output… something we can be proud of and expect to get paid for.  It’s embarrassing to us and our stakeholders if we deliver low quality output and it can lead to customers who are not happy and who will never do business with us again.  That’s not what we are in business for, right?

What about our readers?  Have you had projects with many issues or errors where you had to scramble to get things back on track and turn problems into quality output?  Please share and discuss.