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Friday, July 22, 2005
  The last minute problem

The last minute problem  is a curious creature that lives secretly in every project a group of humans tries to complete to any kind of schedule.  It's that annoying bleep that happens moments before the big unveiling and yet you somehow felt something like this would happen.

The LMP factor can be used to describe any glitch or other (allegedly) unforeseen delay in the completion of a project.  It is random chance by another name.  Also know as: The human error principle, The odds that something will go wrong, Murphy's Law etc etc...

We all know and dread the Last-Minute-Problem (LMP) and yet it still happens.  Why is that?  is it because it is fated to be that way or is it something more intrinsic to the way things are done?

Expect and Plan for the LMP

Often times the effects of last minute corrections and the need thereof is simply a product of bad planning.  Workers, builders, planners and leaders are not omnipotent, (although many might tell you otherwise), as such - every detail, (down to the weather changing suddenly or the fact that the clients failed to tell you about a small technical detail that has invalidated your work to date), cannot be predicted.  ever

With this in mind it is vital that steps be taken to account for the statistical likelihood of problems occurring.  When timetabling a job it is a must that you create sufficient space for the dealing with of problems.  The greater the importance of the deadline the more time should be given over to fault finding and fixing.

It is no mistake that software testing has three distinct stages Alpha testing or in-house checks, Beta testing where trusted clients try out what you have done and final release the greatest test a product can go through.  Not until sometime after that third stage will all possible problems be high lighted.  It's just one of those things and with experience dealing with and predicting Last-Minute-Problems becomes easier.

Dealing with the LMP

The successful manager and leader of men will be the one that has planned for and is ready to deal with the LMP-factor of projects.  He or she will have in place a system and structure of communication and resources ready to deal with problems as they arise.  The manager will not be able to predict every problem but will be able to create contingency plans and options that enable work to continue despite of the problems. 

The more sensitive and vital an operation or role the greater the level of contingence that should be put in place.  No one can teach you how to do this, they can only show you how they do it; but with time and experience you will learn a "feel" for the job.

As the technician you will find yourself at a loss to either explain how a problem occurred or what you can do about it.  That's life and part of the learning curve that differentiates the book learner from the experienced worker.  Sometimes life just is not the same in practice as in theory. 

This experience of the way things actually are and the often glaring repetition of errors or problems gives, with experience, the ability to simply see and side step the problem so that it never occurs.  This is the core of why an experienced worker is worth much more money per month than the graduate.

Suffering from lack of experiences with LMP

(on the job experience, that books can not teach you)

When you start out on a new line of work, be it paid employment or some practical task, only the experience of doing it will enable you to handle those shock problems that rear up just as you are putting the tools back in the box.  Expect the college student to make errors, this isn't bad in fact the new worker who is almost killed (though exhaustion, the anger of the boss or the laughter of his co-workers) by repeated attacks of LMPs will be worth to you a hundred times the wages of the quite worker who follows orders and never seems to suffer.  This is because the one that is suffering from lack of experiences with LMP is also gaining said experience.

Becoming an expert (learning from LMP)

As you encounter Last-Minute-Problems you will come to learn that the only way to avoid Last-Minute-Problems is to encounter them frequently.  It is this expertise that teaches you that the red wire needs an inch more give than the blue or that the fastest setting plaster takes twice as long as a slower one.  It's just life.  Sooner or later you will start to find that LMP is something that happens to other people - you will have gained experience.

Blind sided by your own expertise

(becoming cocky - the unforeseen LMP you will always encounter)

Congratulations you are now an experienced worker LMPs are a thing of the past right? - WRONG! One of the single greatest causes of delays is the sureness of people who "couldn't possibly be wrong" and then are.  This again is one of those problems - being blind sided by your own skill and experience.  Watch-out for it because it is possibly the most humiliating of all the LMPs.

Conclusion (just factor in and hope...)

At the end of the day Last-Minute-Problems will always happen to you.  It is not avoiding them that is the key but how you plan for and handle them that shows the valuable worker.  It is not so much the planning or lack of that causes LMPs but lack of experiences with LMPs, the good manager should therefore factor for LMP given a good working knowledge of the experience (time spent doing the job) of the workers.

Originally published by me @ Everything2.com

I found a lot of useful info about software testing on your blog - thank you. I also have a new software testing tips blog - please click over and have a look
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