How hosting dinners teaches you how to run a project - SIG | Getting software right for a healthier digital world

How hosting dinners teaches you how to run a project

When getting friends and family over for a lovely dinner, we want to give them the best experience. When you're slaving away in the kitchen, you want to make sure the effort is worthwhile and that you achieve a certain level of accomplishment.

And the four things we have found to help us host a great dinner and allow us to enjoy the experience ourselves can be mapped to your IT.

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My girlfriend and I like to host. Our favorite: afternoon diners. You know, start early in the afternoon and end early in the evening. Allowing us to take the time for multiple courses and some nice wine combinations, but finish up in time to get the cleaning done and enjoy the last bit of the evening together. In essence, we make sure to enjoy the day before we get too tired. But, maybe I am showing my age.

Starting early, however, is an integral concept I (try to) take into my work. I put this core principle up there with the boy scout rule (leave things better than you found them). Beginning a challenge early and having the time to mull it over and prepare has an enormous impact on how successful you can be.

Alas, life often has a different plan in store for me. More often than not, most of the work begins in the ‘evening of the timeline’ and doesn’t allow enough time to dive into things and give you that thinking space. Sometimes important deadlines are close to each other, and you try to get things done ‘just in time’ before something urgent rises to the top of your to-do list.

In software engineering, it’s important to employ the ‘start early’ concept as much as possible. There are plentiful examples of the benefits both in and outside of IT. Even from my own home! Let’s turn back to our dinner example. 

When getting friends and family over, we want to give them the best experience. When you’re slaving away in the kitchen, you want to make sure the effort is worthwhile and that you achieve a certain level of accomplishment. In our house, this means a couple of things:

  • We try out new recipes beforehand
  • We present the dishes to a beautifully high standard
  • We prep mise-en-place as much as we can
  • We pre-set whatever we can on the day itself.

These four things we have found, help us host a great dinner and allow us to enjoy the experience ourselves.

How does this map to your IT? What can you take away from this?

Let me translate the analogy:

  • Proof of Concept (POC) what you don’t know. If you do anything new and are not intimately aware of how it works or the impact it is going to have, try it out first. A new technology? Play around with it. Is a complex migration coming up? Take a sample and try it out early. Build experience with anything new to limit uncertainties.
  • Production-like means exactly that. Test new things as close to reality as you can. When it comes to technology this is paramount and, in most cases, easy to arrange. Duplicate the production environment and know how new implementations behave in advance to eliminate any unexplained differences.
  • Prepare your moves. Anything we can do ahead of time we try to do. Don’t wait with your migration till the end, bring it forward and run a trial at the start to explore and see the effects. Make sure you review development sprints that can be done separately and run them early as a first version.
  • Pre-set your environment wherever you can. Make sure everybody is prepped and ready to go, this applies to all stakeholders. Good preparation should give you ample time to conduct the necessary cleanup, have infrastructure setup available, etc.

Following these steps means you have ample time during dinner or any big task you are trying to accomplish, to work around difficulties that arise last minute. If not, you’ll have extra time to make improvements and overdeliver.

Starting early is difficult, but worth it for peace of mind and to ensure a high chance of success. Although not always easy to keep too, it can also help you make your IT project a success.

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