The Tyranny of Your Data Center Move Plan

Tyranny of your PlanI’ve reviewed many data center relocation plans. Some are simplistic and some are complex, but most suffer from a single and fatal flaw — Everything has to work correctly in the prescribed order. Everything has to go right.

Is that a likely event in the world you live in?

Think about it in the context of an airline flight. Suppose there’s only one, linear sequence of events that will result in a successful landing of the plane. As long as nothing along that event timeline misfires, the landing will be just fine.

Are you ready to take off knowing that everything has to go right to successfully land?

Yet, data center moving project managers first build a plan where everything has to go right and then expend extraordinary effort tracking in minute detail everything that goes wrong. It’s not unusual to consume a disproportionate share of resources and costs because of this flaw.

Like landing an airplane, the wrong time to ask about alternatives is during final approach. As a leader, you have to recognize this planning flaw and counteract it.

Is there a better way?

Maybe, but it might depend on your own built-in biases for using or refusing outside help. It might depend on your willingness to recognize the confirmation bias that sabotages most internally-led moves. It certainly depends on the schedule pressure you’re already experiencing.

Confirmation bias is the seeking or recalling only the evidence that supports your beliefs. It goes almost unchecked with Information Technology (IT) staffs because they naturally gravitate to their strengths and discount and overlook elements that are not in their wheelhouse. Data center moves are not normal events for most IT staff.

The methodology is flawed.

However, the fundamental issue is the method almost all use to create a complex plan. This method is its own form of confirmation bias and the resultant plan holds a tyranny over the project. Consider how project managers are taught to create plans:

  • break the work into smaller tasks with start and stop dates (the work breakdown structure or WBS)
  • sum up the resulting WBS pieces into the project schedule plan
  • track progress against the resulting plan

What kind of a plan have you created? In reality, you’ve not created a plan at all. When you sum up a schedule based on the pieces of the work breakdown, you’ve created a guess about the future. A hypothesis of how the plan might be completed. Your guess isn’t based on deep experience with data center moves and the trouble starts almost immediately.

What happens when reality doesn’t match your hypothesis?

In most cases, you do two things:

  1. You tell offenders to try harder to do exactly what the plan says.
  2. You re-plan.

And those two things consume scarce resources while doing nothing to improve the chances of success.

The plan holds a tyranny over actually completing important work. Instead of recognizing that your hypothesis about the future has been proven wrong in the face of reality, extraordinary effort is expended to tame the turbulence with a cycle of blame and re-planning.

How do you overcome this plan tyranny?

Consider the story of how the Empire State Building was constructed in the era before computers. There was no WBS (work breakdown structure) constructed and then summed up into a schedule. The key success factors for the 18 month construction of the Empire State building were:

  • Deeply Experienced Builders were used – The building tenants didn’t design the building, experts did.
  • Constraints Drove Schedule – The concept of time boxing (what can be done in this time-frame) versus scope boxing (how long will this scope take) was used.
  • Dependencies were Broken not Tracked – Figuring out how to schedule dependencies takes far more effort than figuring out how to break the dependency.

When you hand the data center moving planning over to internal staff with built-in confirmation bias and no deep experience moving data centers, should you be surprised to end up with a plan that holds a tyranny over your project?

Your Plan is Still Just A Guess!

The reality is that most WBS-built plans, while impressively detailed, are still just a guess about the future. A guess that is quickly rendered incorrect with a corresponding increase in measurement activities to right the plan.

A merchant operated a market at the top of a hill. She relied on vendors to supply the market who pulled their wagons up the hill several times a day. Wanting to increase sales by decreasing the time it took for the wagon trips, she hired a project manager. However, the wagon trips took even longer! She asked a vendor to explain the problem.

“I could pull it faster if you can get that project manager out of my wagon,” he explained.

When you burden the people responsible for the work to track the hypothesis about the future that has already been proven wrong, you are simply expending resources on the wrong effort. And the tyranny of your plan promises to continue consuming scarce resources at alarming and accelerating rates.

Plans based on experience are more reliable whereas plans based on wishful thinking, the guesses generated by WBS-based methodology, are not.

Get your data center moving plan reviewed by experts with deep experience to break the tyranny of your plan built from a methodology proven to be flawed.

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