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Lessons Learned for Project Managers – Part IV (#4 in the series 128 Lessons Learned for Project Managers)
By Jerry Madden

  • Redundancy in hardware can be a fiction. We are adept at building things to be identical so that if one fails, the other will also fail. Make sure all hardware is treated in a build as if it were one of a kind and needed for mission success.
  • Don’t be afraid to fail or you will not succeed, but always work at your skill to recover. Part of that skill is knowing who can help.
  • Experience may be fine but testing is better. Knowing something will work never takes the place of proving that it will.
  • People have reasons for doing things the way they do them. Most people want to do a good job, and if they don’t, the problem is they probably don’t know how or exactly what is expected.
  • The boss may not know how to do the work, but he has to know what he wants. The boss had better find out what he expects and wants, if he doesn’t know. A blind leader tends to go in circles.
  • A puzzle is hard to discern from just one piece, so don’t be surprised if team members deprived of information reach the wrong conclusion.
  • Reviews are for the reviewed and not the reviewer. The review is a failure if the reviewed learn nothing from it.
  • The amount of reviews and reports are proportional to management’s understanding, i.e., the less management knows or understands the activities, the more it requires reviews and reports. It is necessary in this type of environment to make sure the data is presented so that the average person, slightly familiar with activities, can understand it. Keeping the data simple and clear never insults anyone’s intelligence.
  • In olden times, engineers had hands-on experience, technicians understood how the electronics worked and what it was supposed to do, and layout technicians knew too-but today only the computer knows for sure, and it’s not talking.
  • Not using modern techniques like computer systems is a great mistake, but forgetting the computer simulates thinking is still greater.

Reprinted with permission from NASA. This article first appeared in NASA’s ASK Magazine, the NASA source for Project Management and Engineering Excellence.

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