Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Dog Days of Summer

So I am sitting here this morning thinking I need to post something new and helpful, since I had a comment on a post recently to the effect that this blog is actually helpful.  Very encouraging.  Every time I think I am just about out of ideas and have nothing useful to add, someone comments on one of my posts so I sit here and stare at the computer screen until an idea emerges.

Today my free association started with wishing it were warmer outside.  Yes, I know much of the US is sweltering, but here in the San Francisco Bay Area we are damn near freezing.  Well not quite, but when the thermometer reads only 63 and you expect it to be in the 80s or 90s, it's disappointing.  Anyway I am musing about the Dog Days of Summer, wishing we were enjoying the characteristic heat due the northern hemisphere until mid August.

Other than the lack of heat, the pace of work certainly is suitable to the Dog Days--every project that involves more than 2 people seems completely stalled, as someone with a task in the critical path is undoubtedly on vacation.  So my secretary and I are keeping ourselves occupied by formally closing old client files.  This makes my risk management partners very happy, since at a minimum it clears the shelves in the file room and sometimes actually clarifies the limitations period...

But the most useful side effect of closing files is that the exercise encourages failure analysis.  As unpleasant as the task is, I know that taking time to look objectively at matters that ended on an unhappy note (either from my perspective when the client won't or can't pay, or from the client's perspective when things went over budget or did not reach the desired outcome) helps me to avoid the same mistakes in the future.  How did I go wrong in pricing this one?  What was the critical issue I missed when I first took this client on?  What was a red herring in this case, and what really mattered?  How should I have staffed this small project?

It is much easier to bask in the glory of successes and sweep the unpleasant stuff under the rug.  But I think there is much more of a learning opportunity in the failures than in the successes.  So that is how I have been spending these Dog Days, chilly as they are.

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