“Shifting Sands 2”

Further to my sandcastle nightmare Shifting Sands and how my little daughter has no concept of the rigour required of Project Management, here’s another salutary tale of woe.

The Senior User (daughter true age 6 – attitude 16) told the Project Executive (mum, aged 21, with a few years experience), that she wanted a car produced in the sand. The Project Manager, (me, age – should know better), was given the mandate, “Build her a car”.

I know my place in the beach pecking order, so I duly set off with a bucket and spade, drew out the outline of the car and started digging. About 30 minutes later I reckoned I was halfway through the construction phase of a 1/3rd scale, replica model of Lewis Hamilton’s current F1 McLaren-Mercedes. The Senior User wandered over, “Is it ready yet?” “Almost finished, about 5 minutes” I replied, which the astute amongst you will have noticed does not tie-in with the previous estimate. “I’ll be back”, which may give you flashbacks to the Terminator, but is far scarier when uttered by my most unreasonable client.

As promised, five minutes later another visit from the Senior User, eating a bag of Cheesy Wotsits (the current snack of choice). “What’s that? I wanted a car”. Before I could explain the intricacies of the representation of the active suspension system, the bombshell landed. “I wanted a Big Red car like the Wiggles”.

“I can change it” I blustered. “It’s only requires a minor configuration change” and “Can I have a Cheesy Whotsit?” The response was that soul-destroying sigh that only a disappointed daughter can emit as she wandered off to talk to the Exec.

I worked feverishly, the aerofoil became the boot, the finely chiselled nosecone was blunted and squared off, the high-traction slick tyres converted into bulbous comedy wheels and the re-work was nearing completion, with only a minor time slippage, but well within tolerance.

Suddenly the client came bounding over, laughing excitedly. My heart soared, success was in the air, rejoice, the client was happy.

“Dad, dad, come and see my boat !”
“What boat?”
“Uncle John has built me a boat”
“But look at the car I’ve built”
“I don’t want a car”

And that was it, the project died. I wandered over to see the boat, which in all honesty was not a true representation and the scaling was way out. But the client seemed happy. Accepting defeat, I feebly uttered
“Can I have a Cheesy Whotsit?”
“No, I gave the last one to Uncle John”.

I wandered off down the beach to buy an ice-cream.

So what lessons have I learned along the way?
An incomplete mandate is not a good basis for a project.
Once the client is no longer interested, you’re sunk.
If you don’t check what the client realy wants, you can wave goodbye to the Cheesy Whotsits.
And finally, if it’s all gone horribly wrong, eat ice-cream.

Have a Great Weekend

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