How to Rescue Failing Software Projects: Practical Proven Methods That Work

IMG_1712 My book is finally available as an eBook, on Amazon Kindle and on Amazon. I wrote this book to share my experience in how to rescue failing software projects. When I was going through such a situation, I had no one to turn to. My hope is that the information in this book will be useful to those in similar situations. Although the information in the book pertains to software projects, I have come to realize that the techniques can be used in many other situations. I have personally used these techniques in business and technical projects.

You can read more about it here.
My book can be purchased here at
Amazon Kindle version is available here at

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Decisions you make, when all the stars in the universe align and a cup of coffee!

What a day! It began like any other day. Within one hour, it was as though all the stars in the universe were aligned. The decisions my wife an I made early in the morning caused the stars in the universe (my universe) align.

Decision #1
My daughter had classes really early this morning. I decided to drive her to school at 6.40am, and head to Starbucks by the beach. I had decided to have Bagel and coffee for breakfast with my wife before getting started on my work.

As luck would have it, we were too early. Yup. At 7.30am, Starbucks was closed. We were sorely disappointed. We stood outside Starbucks for 10 minutes, deciding where we could go to fill our growling hungry stomachs.

Decision #2
Between going to a hawker centre and a McDonald's by the beach, we decided to have breakfast at McDonalds.

Decision #3
While at McDonalds, we took 5 minutes to decide on our breakfast. It was a difficult choice because we were set on having bagels. As we were about to place our orders, a voice behind me said, "Why aren't you in Korea?".

Conrad, an old school mate and buddy of mine, had also just dropped by McDonalds for breakfast with his wife after sending their kids to school. He is also one person who would kick me if I did not complete writing my book "How to rescue failing software projects", which I eventually did and got it listed on Amazon! (Believe me, you don't want to be kicked by Conrad!)

What a coincidence. We had a really nice chat, catching up on the latest happenings in his field of work and compared notes on family tips.

It wasn't long before Conrad's sister, Gwen, came roller-blading by. Another coincidence. She teaches in an education centre that my son attends. She also mentioned that another common friend of ours was having breakfast with his wife at another coffee joint.

Adam, the other "common friend", and his wife, came by McDonalds and we all sat around a small table, sipping on coffee while catching up with each other. Adam is the other person who gave me the inspiration to write my book.

While we sat around a table sipping coffee, we didn't talk about business. There were no expectations placed on any of us. We were relaxed and comfortable, sharing our experience and insights freely

What are the chances that a group of friends can get together by being at the same place, at the same time and doing the same thing? All the stars in the universe must have been aligned!

What has this got to do with effectiveness and project management? A lot. It may seem like a simple get-together, but the same concepts learned from this simple setting can be very powerful.

Observation #1
Simple decisions can determine the outcome of major tasks. If my wife and I hadn't made the decision to have breakfast together at Starbucks, this chain of events wouldn't have happened. It takes one decision to get the ball rolling.

Observation #2
When one door closes, another opens. If we hadn't made the decision to have breakfast at Starbucks, we wouldn't have had the opportunity to make an alternative decision to have breakfast at McDonalds. If we didn't have breakfast at McDonalds, we wouldn't have met Conrad and Adam with their wives, and Gwen. If my wife and I had breakfast just 10 minutes earlier or 10 minutes later, we wouldn't have had the gathering. A closed door or failed opportunity leads to another open door, provided a decision is made to take action.

Observation #3
Not all get-togethers or meetings need to be about business. In managing projects, project managers and team members are up to their necks with uncompleted tasks. It does pay to have small breaks, or small celebrations on milestone completions. These breaks and celebrations are just that...real breaks. It should not be done on a pretext of having a break, and end up having a meeting about the project over coffee. It is about building rapport. It is about understanding each other in the team. It is about building camaraderie and friendships. People relate best when they are relaxed and not have expectations put upon them. Especially in project teams where there is always a tight schedule and endless number of tasks, these friendships help the project team to have a higher morale and thus, leading to greater productivity.

I have personally experienced observation #3 when I was in the midst of rescuing projects. No matter how tired we were, we remained a cohesive team, We understood each other better, we could relate to each other's challenges better and we were willing to help each other out. There was a strong "give-and-take" attitude that enabled us to successfully turn projects around. Boundaries and walls within the team were chipped away naturally.

So, do not wait for all the stars in the universe to align before having a cup of coffee. Make that decision to enjoy a simple, freshly brewed, steaming hot cup of coffee with your family, with your team, with your boss, or just by yourself. You never know when and how the stars will align for you.


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Unknown said...

Hi Bernard, thanks for sharing this very interesting thoughts & observations. I like observation 3. Have a great time. Cheers. Augustine

Bernard Ong said...

Thanks for dropping by Augustine. Sometimes it is best to simply savour the moment. Sometime we lose ourselves and objectiveness when we're caught up in the hustle and bustle of work.