The “six phases of a project” (see image, author unknown) is one of those humor file items that is funniest to those who have lived through such an experience (and are still willing to laugh about it). It’s also a sanity check when you’re in the middle of one, and feeling like the working environment around you is a bit out of control. Here’s a closer look (through the eyes of an AV technology manager) of what makes this so unsettlingly humorous, yet relevant, to AV projects in education.
1. Enthusiasm – Within the “end user’s” organization, the AV project officially starts with budget approval from administrative management that is probably too busy to actually fully digest the impact of the systems. Likewise, this approval only comes after significant effort (often through a series of unsuccessful altered pleas) to demonstrate said need, has been expended by the internal AV staff. So, in actuality, once “officially” launched the project has been on the AV technology management staff’s radar for some time. It’s fair to say “enthusiasm” is a fitting descriptor of the release of pent up sentiment surrounding the importance of funding the new AV. This is, however, quickly tempered by…
2. Disillusionment – Which actually comes in not one merciful dose (in equal, but negative, proportion to phase one) but as seemingly relentless waves of general unconstructiveness. While perhaps starting with fairly mild glitches typified by say pesky unrealistic requests (more like directives) to add technically unrelated scope, the complexity of disillusionment continues to increase. The damaging effects of which seem to inevitably culminate in a ninth-hour reduction to the total funding at about the same time higher-than-expected bids are returned.
3. Panic – Levity aside, this is truly the critical phase. While panic is a perfectly understandable emotional response to the situation at hand, the successful technology manager must evaluate all given circumstances and realistically reposition the AV project within those constraints. With a revised scope in hand, a methodical (if not hastily applied) approach must ensure all aspects, starting first and foremost with what the real end users needs are, are in alignment with what is about to get installed. And, in reward for this proactive hard work, one might still have a viable project and still be in a position of moderate influence to receive the benefits associated with the next phase.
4. Search for the Guilty – As we all know, if the AV project is done right, it almost always must include facility updates, or perhaps better yet, (re)building the room from the ground up. And in the spirit of being careful what you ask for, one then finds themselves a Construction Project Underling, where the AV will assuredly be the last thing on that “team’s” collective mind. So, combined with your best efforts to resolve your “own” issues simmering from the previous phase, you’ll now be entrenched in a Search for the Guilty exercise of combating disinformation being distributed to folks with hammers and screwdrivers while trying to keep from having your own AV experts from being kicked off the site.
5. Punishment of the Innocent – On the face of, this phase may also sound a bit pessimistic, but again, it is a chance for the technology manager to shine (sort of). Key to the success of which (as well as the project in toll) is the ability to artfully fall on ones own sword. Also known to be helpful skills are: eating crow, having/using get out of jail free cards, or pretty much anything else that is not known to be illegal. So, across several fronts, the AV as planned is compromised, the technology has changed, user input changed, construction techniques are inadequate, contractors are spitting change orders, etc., etc., while the well positioned technology manager takes it on the chin. Finally, after playing lots of monkey in the middle, it’s time for a successful conclusion.
6. Praise and Honors for the Non-Participants – Even though the project team was long since worn out through dogged pursuit of nagging problems championed by the technology manager (the bones of the few still remaining), a last minute push to avoid ribbon cutting hiccups is also completed! Campus stakeholders (which are almost never the same individuals who provided the original “needs” input), the somewhat disinterested folks controlling the funds, the agitated facilities manager and the wonderful AV supplier (they may be reading this also, and I need to restock some get out jail free cards) and yes, the technology manager, assemble for the kick off. As the technology manager’s boss’s boss fumbles with the microphone to publicly thank the faculty stakeholders (with honorable mention for tech manager’s boss) you gladly take a pass on recognition, enthusiastic about applying lessons learned to the next project you’re already privately scheming.
The views expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the views of the authors’ employer(s), past or present.
Greg Bronson, CTS-D, applies AV technologies in the development of innovative learning spaces for higher education. Greg spent the first 10 years of his career as AV technician and service manager, with the past 12+ years as an AV system designer and project manager. Bronson currently works for Cornell University and has also worked for two SUNY (State University of New York) campuses as well as a regional secondary education service depot. Bronson is the originator of concept for Infocomm’s Dashboard for Controls and has had completed projects featured in industry publications. You can reach Greg at email@example.com