done_signOver the past seven months, I’ve had the opportunity to work on a security and compliance project that is truly once in a career. The project was of a scale that I have never worked on with a core program team over twelve people and an execution team that numbered in just over a couple thousand. I was averaging over eighty-plus hours a week and had to context switch between technical engineering at the “deck level” to executive briefings and status updates and everything in between.  It challenged me like at no other time in my career.

Two weeks ago, we implemented the final change that closed the project, and since that time I have been reflecting at what we accomplished, and while yes I’m impressed by that, I’m more impressed with how we accomplished it.  In the past few weeks I’ve cut my work hours in half, my responsibilities have drastically reduced and I feel as though I’ve fallen off a cliff.

My reflections on my experiences in this project and many, below are a few of the highlights:

  • Running into the fire we designed a path forward, seeking the expertise around the organization
  • The team built consensus and buy-in as we moved forward, we didn’t have time to do this beforehand.
  • Never underestimate the value of a great Program Manager or Project Manager, never overestimate the damage of a bad one.
  • Firefighting brings out the best in everyone, levels, and titles disappear and a comradery that is battle forged emerges.
  • We must be flexible, but never with our core principles.
  • Always approach leadership with a solution to the problem, be specific in your asks of leadership and know the direction you want to take before approaching them.
  • We must all ask for help. I didn’t do this nearly enough.
  • Communication and PR is not a part time role in a large project, hire a dedicated resource the value will show itself almost immediately.

I am grateful for everyone who supported me during the project, gave me advice, brought me a drink when I was in back to back meetings, and generally was understanding.

In the words of West Wing’s President Bartlet, “What’s Next?”