Overpromise-Underdeliver? It doesn’t have to be that way.

stock-footage-unhappy-businessman-putting-head-on-deskNow you’ve done it.  Your initial work estimates were off, and you’re stuck in a frenzy trying to grab a hold on something solid as you fall down an ever steepening mountain of issues.  Everyone is heading home for the weekend and you’re sitting in your office banging your head against your desk because you can’t figure out how to solve what you initially thought was an easy problem.  Your coworkers offered assistance earlier in the week, but you underestimated and overpromised on the timing with your boss, and waived them off laughingly.

Good luck getting out of this jam.

Ever been in this situation? If you’ve worked in any business or technical role for an extended period of time, this scenario is probably bringing up flashbacks of a dark time that you had put in the back of your mind, hoping to not have called up again.  Well, sorry for that one, but there is hope.  Well, not if you’re currently in this predicament, you’re hosed, but for everyone else I can offer some advice on how to avoid this situation.

1)      Know Your Deadline

First off and most importantly is knowing your deadline.  Let me repeat: KNOW YOUR DEADLINE.  This can’t be stated enough.  If you don’t have the knowledge of the hard set deadline, you will be setting yourself up for failure.  Set reminders, put sticky notes up around your desk.  Ask that weird guy who sits across the cube from you to set an alarm, or whatever else fits your style. Always know what the expectations are for the timeframe so you can plan accordingly.

2)      Know Your Problem

If you know your problem, you will have a better idea around what is required to solve it.  Doing a Service Pack install on a production environment?  Depending on the user base and product, that could take anywhere from a couple of hours to a couple of weeks based on your testing requirements.  Error in the event viewer for one of the services in SharePoint? That should be easy right? Probably not.  I’ve linked to them before, but if you don’t have prior knowledge there are great online communities supporting Microsoft and Apple products.

3)      Know Your Availability

Once you know your deadline and your problems, it’s time to check your availability.  Will you have time to fix this issue?  Your research on the issue and your current workload should be able to help you determine whether you’re good or it’s time to call in the reinforcements.  Be very careful to allocate additional time in case anything goes wrong.  While the online community is great for providing fixes to issues, these aren’t a magic bullet to all problems and every environment is different.

4)      Know Thyself (or ‘Know Yourself’ for those not interested in Ancient Greek Literature)

This comes as more of a warning than anything.  Plato used the term in a broad context with the basic idea being that if you don’t fully know who you are, you cannot appreciate or learn from others.  You’re the rock star Server guy in your organization? That’s great, but your credentials will not fix the issue and your reputation needs to be retained as much as it was earned.  Know where your weaknesses are and work to fix them.  If you have any doubts about your abilities, you cannot be afraid to ask for help or to look elsewhere for advice.

5)      Know Your Resources

If you know you’re not going to be able to accommodate enough time to fix the issue, or if you have enough time, but don’t have any room for error, this is a good time to evaluate bringing someone else in to assist.  If you have no one on site that can help, you’ll likely either need to consider reprioritizing your current initiatives, or consider working with an outside partner.  Most organizations will have IT companies on retainer for this type of situation.  A very popular service for Microsoft products is Microsoft Premier Support, which covers the full line of MS products, but oftentimes requires service contracts before they will provide any assistance.

Short of having a time machine, the best way to get out of a jam is to avoid it in the first place.  Do your due diligence and make sure you are prepared to handle whatever comes your way.

If you have any other tips, or maybe some horror stories, feel free to share them by clicking the comment button at the top of this post, and as always, be sure to follow me on twitter.

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