college taught me many things. the difference in active and passive RFID tags, what 1080i and 1080p mean, the kinds of multiplexing different cell phones use, and the reasons why digital cable can never really be considered digital. but above all the forumlas, facts, history, and theories i learned, one lesson stands out above all else:

well begun is half finished.

my professor doctor jim janssen taught me that in my senior year in our final course. the lesson is simple—if you do the work that’s needed up front, you’ll have less problems the rest of the way. though the lessson may be simple, actually heeding its words can be quite difficult.

there are plenty of pitfalls when planning a project. some may be based on the work, while others may be just plain politics. sometimes it’s hubris, and sometimes impatience. even yet, it could just be a terrible situation.

the work: it is always better to spend the time to get the requirements correct up front than it is to start work quickly and fight through the requirements at the end. even if something seems brainless, straight-forward, and a ‘slam dunk,’ you need to take everything into consideration at once and assess risks and plan out what needs to happen, and when it needs to happen. the complexity of the work—or lack thereof—is never an excuse not to plan things properly.

politics: if there’s ever political pressure to get something done by a certain point in time, 9 times out of 10 the killer question is, “do you want this done now? or do you want this done right?” no sane person, no matter how much pressure they’re under, would give approval to provide a work product to the client (internal or external) knowing that it’s incorrect and has issues. office and organizational politics should never be an excuse not to plan things properly.

hubris: no matter how many projects you’ve managed, or how well you’ve done, it has no bearing on how well you will do this time around. never get bigger than your britches. some people think they’re too good to use the proper project management tools. you have to recognize that each project is it’s own beast, so even if you’ve done the same thing a hundred times with no problems, number 101 could end up being the __one that goes wrong. being good at what you do is never an excuse not to plan things properly.

impatience: it’s in our culture to want to hit the ground running. but before you run, you have to make sure to tie your shoes. proper planning takes some time. and no—it’s not always fun, and it’s not always exciting. don’t worry, though, because the work will still be there when you’re ready. needing to get a project started, or wanting to get a project started is no excuse not to plan things properly.

terrible situations: the world isn’t perfect, and the working world is absolutely no different. if you knew half of the troubles that people go through behind closed doors on a daily basis to produce the final products that you see every day—from firefighters, to football players, to financiers—you would be astonished. so bad things will happen, and you may enter into a battle you know you’ll lose, but you have to plan it anyway. being in a terrible situation is no excuse not to plan things properly.

so it doesn’t matter what happens around you, what you’re working on now, or what you’ve done in the past. plan it out. get the requirements, know what you’re doing, make a plan, and prepare for the worst. when you do the work up front things go much smoother…. they don’t always go smoothly! but they do go smoother. great chefs always prepare the ingredients before they begin to cook because all that’s left at that point is to put it all together. when you start of well, the rest falls into place.