There are two lines of thinking when it comes to project mishaps: either know how to deal with them when they occur, or attempt to avoid them altogether. This post deals with the latter of those two schools of thought, with Alan Norton listing 10 ways to avoid project development mistakes. Some of the advice provided is self-evident: learn from other people's mistakes and making sure to do research first, for instance. Other advice is less obvious and clearly comes from personal experience, such as the advice to use the most basic tool around-checklists:
Before a commercial plane trip, the pilot and co-pilot are busy walking through a long, detailed checklist. Checklists can be used during various phases of the project development process. They are particularly useful when working with large systems and when a single person is responsible for multiple tasks. For example, a list detailing the steps required for system turn-on will help avoid accomplishing tasks out of order and prevent errors of omission. It is all too easy for developers to overlook important items like system access when they are busy doing final testing and documentation.
Norton goes on to express how testing early and often is probably the best way to assure big errors don't occur later in the project (in fact, he lists it twice, once for internal testing and again for a third party to review). He finishes the article with a powerful reminder: there are times when only you know what mistake you've made. While you should never keep secrets from other team mates, he suggests that you should try to resolve the problem yourself before going to the boss' office with your tail between your legs. This not only gives you an opportunity to learn how to fix the mistake yourself, but also keeps your own self esteem intact.