View Full Version : A failed project

03-30-16, 06:56 AM
In an hours I have a meeting with a group from the government. I was asked to solve a problem for them and I had a few months for it, but unfortunately I was not able to. I did not communicate with them, because I first wanted to have something to show them. I suspect that the problem was not solvable at all, given the limitations of the project (only use open source software, but I see that if I just emailed them that before, then they would at least lower their expectations and respect me for trying, and we might even have done something to solve the

On the other hand, they also gave the assignment to another group, who did not have the same limitation; they can use commercial software, and I am quite sure that they can do it.

It's quite embaressing, but I learned a few things from this experience:
- I should communicate better when doing a project, not just when I have results to show, but also (especially) if I run into problems.
- I should not agree to spend a lot of time working on a project that is not paid. Now I wasted dozens of hours on it, in a time when my monthly income is not sufficient.
- I should try to get projects that require me to mostly do things that I already know I can do, instead of diving into a new subject and hoping that it will work out. In this case it didn't and, looking back, it created a lot of frustration, which affected me in a big way. If I instead would focus on doing projects that better fit my current skills I could be much more productive. Getting and finishing some projects succesfully would make me more confident of my abilities, and the same for my employer.

The meeting will be uncomfortable, but I will just tell them that I tried and that this approach (using open source software) is not working. While that is not the desired result, it is helpful, because then they know that they should try something else. I expect that they will be frustrated that I did not communicate, and if they bring that up I will tell them that they are right, that I should have. It will be frustrating, but at least it's over in two hours.

The good thing is that I can put this project out of my mind and focus on other things.

03-30-16, 07:15 AM
Best of luck. I'm not sure if you've already had your meeting but if not, just remember that even negative results are results. So I'd explain in detail what the problems were (maybe you can even make a nice presentation about it) and how exactly open source software isn't adequate (i.e. the features that are lacking) and what software you would need to make this project a success.

Whatever work you have done and whatever your findings are, present that.

03-30-16, 10:08 AM
You're doing the right thing. If the project was doomed to failure and you explain that in a way your client understands then they shouldn't be upset about that.

But yes, communication is important. If they complain about communication and you say what you posted you'd say about communication (accepting your error), I think the company you're helping now might forgive you for this error and if they don't, you should still forgive yourself. You're new and mistakes will happen. You certainly wouldn't make the same mistake on the next project so it's not a fatal flaw.

I screwed up on my first work project out of college too if it's any consolation to you. I procrastinated to the point where I produced poor work. Client used the word "unacceptable" even but my company let it go as just one error.

I learned how to generate imaginary stress and mini-milestones to get myself to finish things on time immediately after that failure. Funny, I wasn't even diagnosed then. So you'll improve with time too - it's just human to make mistakes.

03-30-16, 11:48 AM
They told me that the lack of communication was no problem, and they found it interesting to learn that this was not possible. Like you said Fuzzy, a negative result is also a result. I am glad that they realized that too.

The meeting took 3 hours, which were all unpaid. That is a long time, especially knowing that it won't end in a paid project. Like I said in my first post, I will not accept this anymore. A first conversation can be free, but after that I need to be paid, if they want me to look at something.

But the good thing is that it's done.

Thanks for your understanding acdc. Great that your company allowed you to learn from that mistake. From the point of view of a client something like that can be frustrating, but if you just start your career you have so much on your mind (I do for sure), that it's only logical that it's sometimes hard to focus on the right things. I also hope to learn the same lessons you learned! I work very well last minute, when I feel the stress of the deadline, but it would be very useful if I could generate this earlier. I think I will do this by agreeing with another person who is interested in my project (a client, my manager, etc - depending on the case) to send an email (or phone call, or conversation) with my progress. I hope that works.

Bottom line: I made some mistakes, but I got away with it. The good thing is that these were some new mistakes (at least in this context) and now I can learn something from it. It's not my goal to make no mistakes, but I try to be original in the mistakes I make. :)

03-30-16, 11:58 AM
"I try to be original in the mistakes I make"

I really like that!!!

Glad the meeting went well and you got something out of this experience.

03-30-16, 02:20 PM
Really glad things worked out for you Jacksper.

And good idea about not doing too much free stuff.

04-01-16, 03:24 PM
A mistake is only a failure if it's not part of a bigger process.

From everything you've said, not only was the result well received; it was also an experience from which you've learned a lot. That's a win x2 in my book. It cost you in terms of time, but otherwise you've gained as a result of the experience from the sounds of things.

04-01-16, 03:35 PM
That's how we learn doing mistakes and learning from them :)

04-21-16, 03:42 PM
I like your attitude. You learned what you should do in the future. They really can't blame you, and have no reason to be angry. After all you weren't being paid. Over all it sounds like you came out of this better for having gone through it and learned a few things in the process. I think I'd count this as a win.