Prerequisites can be a ‘mare, i.e. nightmare. Yet they’re only a ‘mare when they’re not:
- Clearly identified
- Understood and evaluated against inter-dependencies
Prerequisites exist for a specific purpose. They’re things that are required as a prior condition for something else to happen or exist. Here’s a very simple example – the power must be connected before a light switch will work. When prerequisites aren’t in place items that are dependent on them can quickly move on to the critical path quickly followed by escalation, fire-fighting, spiraling communications and finger-pointing; a great big ‘mare.
Can we stop the ‘mare completely? Not completely no.
Can we do better and reduce the possibility of a ‘mare? Definitely and here are 3 tips to help you along the path …
1. Clearly identify the prerequisites
It sounds so simple but don’t be caught out. It’s actually pretty challenging and many people underestimate the effort to do this properly. Identifying prerequisites at a high level is relatively easy – ‘A’ must be done before ‘B’ and ‘3’ will always be needed in advance of ‘4’. The ‘mares start when they’re only identified at high level. How can someone determine people and things will be in the right place at the right time doing the correct activities for an optimal output when the details aren’t clear? Unfortunately hindsight helps enormously but rather than waiting until the proverbial has hit the fan be proactive and ask different questions. Things like:
- If ‘A’ must be done before ‘B’ what’s needed to do ‘A’?
- Who has to be involved / who are you dependent on and what sort of skills do they need?
- What kind of access is required? (if we’re talking about systems)
- Are there other dependencies that will stop ‘A’ being done?
- When in the process does it need to occur?
- What happens/what’s the impact if ‘A’ isn’t done by x-date?
2. Understand and evaluate the inter-dependencies
Identifying the prerequisites is one thing evaluating the impact if there are delays or complete non-delivery is Tip 2. Invest time in evaluating the inter-relationships, inter-dependencies and potential impact. This is more than risk analysis. It’s an opportunity to overlay work streams, pre-empt critical paths, properly align people and the multitude of resources involved, and mitigate or minimize potential ‘mares.
3. Do them
Yup, that’s it in a nutshell. The prerequisites are known, the inter-dependencies are understood and the stars and moon are aligned. All that’s left is to deliver those prerequisites according to the plan. No excuses.
Give yourself and everyone else less of a ‘mare and pre-empt the perils of prerequisites.
How do you go about identifying, understanding, evaluating and delivering prerequisites?