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Using Our WayBack Machine To ImproveIn comparison with the rough-and-tumble of that fifth-generation launch, the design and implementation last year of our sixth-gen site … was downright dull. … Our five month-long beta period gave us time to migrate all our existing content to the new formats and also to elicit user feedback that we incorporated before launch. When the site went live in May 2013, it did so with little fuss and no glitches. A ride on the Not-So-Wayback Machine, IEEE Spectrum, Sep 2014.

I love examples of project teams that perform better over time. Compare the above with their description of their original fifth-generation launch:

We’d taken the prototype for a few test drives, but there was no formal beta-test period. We were going to cut over from the old site to the new one and, at the same time, migrate the thousands of pages from the old site to the new one. It was, to put it mildly, a high-risk maneuver. … We started that migration on a Friday night … so everything would be live on Monday morning. A ride on the Not-So-Wayback Machine, IEEE Spectrum, Sep 2014.

I like to remind people that good projects are often boring projects.

See for example Successful Projects Are Boring

I also like to remind people that when we get good enough to produce successful projects, that we have to worry about being taken for granted.

See more on How Not To Be Taken For Granted

One of the biggest shocks of my life was how being successful at something didn’t always result in getting recognition or even an organizational desire to repeat the success. Too much of the world gets along fine on projects that are late and buggy.

See why in A Successful Project Manager But Never A Successful Project

While we don’t get a lot of information on the project details in the above article, it is interesting how in the early description the only timeline information is on trying to bring up the project over the weekend. On the successful project, the boring one, the one timeline is about having a five month beta period. I can imagine what it would have been like to explain to people on the earlier project, expecting to take the site live over the weekend, that we first needed to go five months of beta testing. I suspect the response would have been “Are you crazy! Why would we ever need that much time?”

We can and do learn from our past experiences, which is great news. It just amazes me how too often we’ve done this kind of project before, such as bringing up a website or producing a new textbook or putting out the next great mobile phone, but we still fail in a consistent and predictable way.

For examples see Lessons Learned From the Failed Oregon Healthcare Website and Past Performance Does Not Guarantee Future Results – Except in Project Management

What we need to be successful is almost certainly already available to us. We just need to pay attention and get down to doing it. As we do so, we need to be aware that success doesn’t consistently bring rewards, but being consistently successful will ultimately result in a more satisfying and successful life.

What are you doing to ensure that your projects are improving using past experience?

Thank you for sharing!