go for launch
Project Management Thoughts

Are You Go or No-Go for Launch?

You’ve completed the development, done testing, and have everything in place for launch. So you’re ready to go, right?

Well, as the saying goes “the devil’s in the details”. We’re about to roll out a new solution for a client, so these questions are right in front of us right now.

Here are a few of the “details” that we make sure to include in the Go / NoGo decision process that you may want to consider the next time you’re in this position.

The Dry Run

You say that you’ve tested. It doesn’t matter if you’re deploying an IT solution, a new business process, or a new Break Room Keurig (ok, maybe not the last one so much) – you need to be sure that you’ve looked at what you’re preparing to implement from all angles.

I assume that you’ve completed the basic testing to the development/change definition (we call this the “happy path”). But have you completed any negative testing – have you tried to break it? Have you tried to look at how this new system/process/coffee maker would react in the worst case as well as the best case?

The key is to make sure you’ve viewed this from every angle and understand every outcome before moving forward. For those of you from the 80s – think about the movie Gremlins. Crazy things can happen if you don’t really think through (or test) all of the angles.

The Team Stretch

Even if everything is tested and ready – are the Users/Employees/Customers/Anyone impacted by this change ready? Do they even know about it? You would be surprised (or maybe you wouldn’t) how often changes are implemented without any kind of “heads-up” to the people impacted by it – never mind training.

It’s been my experience that the best way for any change to fail (system/process/whatever) is to not effectively communicate what’s coming/why it’s coming/what this means for the people involved. Nothing inspires resistance – and even sabotage – like having something forced on you.

Make sure that everyone knows well in advance what’s going on – and that they are ready for whatever the change is. Lack of readiness here is a definite cause for a delay in launch.

Trust me, I’ve been to more client sites where we’re asked to bring in solutions because the first X number of solutions failed – mainly due to User rejection. While I appreciate the business their fails have brought us – it does make for a VERY skeptical user. Take my advice – take the time to train – and delay launch if necessary to make sure everyone is ready.

The Point of No Return

Before you launch, have you identified a Point of No Return? Is there a place in the process where you just can’t go back?

Even the best-planned/tested/ready changes can hit major walls that couldn’t have been predicted. One of ours was a change in the path of a hurricane (that was fun).

The good thing is that once you know where that Point of No Return is, you can construct your contingency plans until you get there. That ensures that once you hit the Point, you’re ready to move forward.

So while you’re getting everything else tested and ready to go – make sure that all of your Rollback Plans and Failover Plans are in place – and have been thoroughly tested. That way you can safely go from Launch to the Point of No Return a little more confidently.

The Flight Attendant Rule

Whenever I’m on a flight and hit turbulence, or just something a little weird, I always look to the Flight Attendants. If they’re not panicking – then there’s no need for me to panic (at least not yet).

So when you’re getting ready to launch, make sure your project team is ready to go – and knows to remain calm. Your Users/Customers/Whoever is impacted by this change will be much calmer about the overall experience if the team is.

Now I’m not so naive to think that the Flight Attendants don’t sometimes put on a brave face in the cabin and panic face in the Galley. But I appreciate the effect of this façade. Your overall launch experience will go more smoothly if your project team keeps the public face positive and keep the panic face for your project war room. Trust me.

Obviously, there are a lot of elements that go into your GO / NO-GO decision. These are just some of the ones we make sure to cover as well. What are some of your pre-launch decision preparations – or lessons learned?