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Train of Thought...
September 2005 - The A-Train?

Life in the lab at the present time has but one focus - the 'A'-word. Every spare minute is going to the task and there is no doubt progress is being made in leaps and bounds. Will we be ready on time? No question! Wow, that really wasn't that hard to say. Fortunately the written word shows neither surfeit nor lack of confidence!

This all out effort, is it worth it? This question can be fairly asked of any major project whether it be accreditation or perhaps the organising of our ASM. At the present time it feels a bit like a runaway train. On the surface it seems to be nothing short of blood sweat and tears. Where are the positives?

The first positive is that the focus goes very harshly on how we do things. Already we have unearthed several computational errors in our software that would have remained buried otherwise. Small effects on their own perhaps, but there is a cumulative effect. One error has been perpetuated via a misquote from a very well known text via a well known set of guidelines. We have also found papers that do not exist cited in guidelines! Many of our procedures have been revised and we are most certainly working at a higher quality than we would be otherwise - not that we were doing poorly previously. The bar is simply rising inexorably

The second positive is that the 'A'-word has welded the team together into a very cohesive unit. Everybody is involved in the process in some form or other. Those with the greatest experience have been doing most of the writing while others have been proofing, checking for sense and accuracy of method descriptions. Everybody has had a role to play and everybody is sharing in the good times and bad times as we roll down the track. Come January there will be one hell of a party!

The third positive is the honing of our project management skills. Looked at as a whole the project is so daunting as to appear unattainable. Broken into bite size chunks with the big chunks going to the more experienced people and the smaller chunks to those with less experience the goal becomes achievable. Big chunks or small, they are equally important. The key is matching the complexity to the experience of the author. We have consequently been able to see an ever increasing pile of completed chunks building up, rather than a mountain towering over us. Focusing on the achievements and ticking off milestones on the time-line are great morale boosters.

Are there negatives? Of course there are. Are there times of despondency? Yes there are. Managing these times is one of the keys to succeeding. The best way to deal with the down times is for the team to look out for each other. Difficulties tend to melt away when they are shared. Taking time out, having two sections on the go so you can move from one to the other, regular team review sessions all help deal with the downs.

Would I choose to embark on this project? No! Would I choose to work to the deadline we are working to? No! Am I glad we are doing it? Yes! We are a stronger and much more knowledgeable team as a result of the 'A'-word. We have learned a lot about our field of work, about each other, about writing, about managing projects and about managing our time.

The 'A'-word has become the 'A'-train. Will we stay on the track and arrive on time? So long as we continue to believe it strongly enough, and look out for each other, then yes we will! There, how's that for confidence!

'til next month,

K

September, 2005

kevin.gain@health.wa.gov.au

 

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