Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Row together

Have you ever been a member of a team that failed to complete a project or finish the task? Could you describe why the team failed to meet its goals and what you would do differently in the future?

Yes, you can use a classroom experience for this question but do you really want to confess that you failed cataloging in the middle of your interview for a metadata librarian position?

Begin by explaining a bit about what the project was and the goals for the project. Who was the audience? Was there a deadline? Did you have a budget? The criteria for the project will help you explain the failure: what broke down?

Projects usually fail for either time or money reasons, and with both, a larger failure. Once you have explained the project and decided why it failed, explain the situation but it should sound as though lightning struck, or take responsibility for a minor complication. People blow this question by:
  • Suggesting that co-worker incompetence led to the failure. You don't look like a team player, nor do you look smart enough to tell people to stop rowing on the same side at the same time.
  • You were WAY, WAY over-budget. Math much? Sometimes, costs are really outside of our control, but managers have to trim the fat on items. Why did your project need two demonstration laptops instead of one, especially if only one presenter traveled?
  • Your project is still not finished and it's REALLY late. A project is not a failure until it is done and you can measure the results. There are few projects that are never-ending (How to Deal with Resource Challenges in a Library), or cyclical (How to Use RefWorks) or finite (Instructions on How to Use the Catalog). What type of project are you describing and is it really done?
  • No one used it. Some projects fail because they aren't used (you thought it was a great idea, but...) and you can't find this out without promotion or evaluation. Failures in promotion are good examples about what you learned about increasing your user base, a concern at every type of library or for every type of librarian.
Remember those rules above and explain how the problem--just one is fine, don't sound like the sky fell--was resolved, or explain, hypothetically, how this experience changed your ideas about project management.

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