August 9, 2017

The 5 stages of grief … over delayed product release

One of a Product Manager’s biggest miseries is running over deadlines, thus delayed products.

One thing PMs are constantly trying to avoid is having that call from a client making sure there won’t be any deadline run-ons. Or worse yet, the product launch getting delayed. It may sound fairly easy to keep everything on track, but it definitely is not! I mean, you WOULD assume that everyone will follow the plan to the letter and deliver on time. But, that kind of scripts only happens in wonderland. People will make mistakes, call in sick, or unintentionally be a blocker to someone. Sometimes they simply run into issues that are out of their hands. That’s life after all. Sadly, it’s the PM’s role to have a list of contingency plans up his sleeves. You know, just in case.

1. Denial and isolation

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First, It’s the end of the world. It was all going so smoothly when suddenly, everything is delayed. The worst part is that nobody knows why. And that’s when the denial begins. Everyone says they’re innocent and that they are on top of their tasks. Yet, no one seems to know what’s the origin of the delay.

2. Anger

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The second phase is the least pleasant one. This is where the PM has to stop what he was working on and try to figure out what happened. The anger part happens when he can’t track down the blocker. Having a delayed schedule while knowing that he was doing everything he could to make sure nothing fell through the cracks is very frustrating. But we all know that keeping track of every.single.thing is nearly impossible. At least not when auditing all communication channels is not your one and only main job. Knowledge workers exist for a reason.

3. Bargaining

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Now it’s bargaining time. Or more like “I’m not the one causing this. I updated my .. oh wait”. This is when everybody goes back in their tracks and starts to imagine alternative scenarios. You know, the usual if-only-you-get-back-to-me-sooner or the hey-I reminded-you-but-you-just-forgot-again. It just never ends. But the work has been delayed nevertheless.

4. Depression

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After all the blame is exchanged and everyone realizes their mistake, it’s time for “depression”. It’s not too clinical in this context but it’s still quite the uncomfortable feeling. Delayed work means even more work. The good part is that everyone finally recognizes that yes, they are at fault. To some extent. And that it’s time to fix things.

5. Acceptance

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Once you accept the problem, you’re more likely to fix it. Or even go beyond what you’ve hoped for in the first step! This is every PM’s hardest yet favorite time. They have to pull every trick in the books, from up their sleeves, and even improvise to fix everything. And this is exactly when you know what the PM is truly made of. Now we need to get one thing clear. Delays are almost unpreventable. Things go wrong. What matters most, however, is how we try to prevent them. Having magical powers is one thing, constantly auditing all communication channels is another.