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Couldn't See That One Coming

R06Every year, Iowa hosts one of the nation's premier bicycle enthusiast events, the Register's Annual Bicycle Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI).  This year, we even have Lance Armstrong joining the ride for a couple of days (with the whole Tour de France thing under his belt, he must have felt compelled to try a real bike ride for once).  Over the course of one week each July, riders make their way across the state of Iowa, staying in a different town each night (generally camping out in tents).  While I enjoy cycling, I've yet to participate in this Iowa phenomenon, although I've heard from others that it is quite the experience.

Host towns go to great lengths to ensure that riders are treated well and that they have good memories when they leave.  Being selected as a host town is a big deal in Iowa, and it is our state's equivalent to being selected as a site for the next Olympics.  Many hours of planning go into preparing the venue for the overnight stay.

Last night, the riders were staying in the neighboring suburb of Waukee.  A big thunderstorm blew through last night.  While July thunderstorms are nothing new to RAGBRAI riders, this one (according to news reports this morning) evidently short circuited the sound system in Centennial Park, causing the school fight song to blare out over the campgrounds where many of the cyclists were staying... all night long.  Yup, that'll be a memorable stay.

You can rest assured that the Waukee planners were probably prepared for most risk events, but this one probably didn't even hit their radar screen.  But I bet it gets filed under "lessons learned" for the next time Waukee is selected to host.

As project managers, we have to plan for risks.  But there are some risks we could never begin to fathom in a million years... things that blindside us so badly that we're left standing there dazed and confused.  That's where documenting our assumptions (REMEMBER:  "Undocumented assumptions resurrect as excuses")and building in logical contingency help us keep our credibility.  It is so much easier to go to stakeholders and say "Our assumptions were violated" than it is to say "We didn't see that one coming."

And if that doesn't work, repetitively playing your project's fight song might help.

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