I just had a very stressful week, one where I had to work on two very time-consuming projects with hard deadlines. The first one had a very dedicated team to help me, and it met the deadline only two minutes before it was due. The second one, which I worked on yesterday, did not have a team that was able to dedicate their resources until the last minute, and we missed the deadline by less than 10 minutes. I managed to persuade the people receiving the project to take it anyway, but they later told us that they couldn’t open it.

I remained calm throughout, even though at one point, 10 minutes before the deadline, I realized that we had to change tactics. The whole debacle was really a matter of quality vs. time. I and my colleagues were trying to put together a quality document, but in the end we couldn’t meet the deadline by a few measly minutes. Thinking back, there were many factors that contributed to our failure. The first one being that this was too much work vs. reward. Even if we had turned in our project on time, our relative reward would have been small/low. It was a project that we probably shouldn’t have taken in the first place. Now, many hours of labor (mostly squeezed into less than a week) and hundreds of dollars in cost later, it’s pretty clear.

I do feel for my client’s disappointment, but I do not think I did anything wrong, other than underestimate the amount of time it took to compile and put the finishing touches on a 300 page document. I did my very best and worked my heart out, and I also decided to take responsibility of the project, when I could have allowed someone else to do it.

But I was the first one to arrive at work that morning, so I volunteered. In the end, I got the heat from both ends. The manager on the project yelled at me (she later apologized), and the graphic designer I was working with grumbled that I should have given him the files earlier (which I could not do).

It’s not a comfortable position, and I took a risk which mostly failed. But it shows that I am personally growing to be willing to take the risk of leadership, and live with the consequences. I would have taken all the responsibility, but I have very supportive supervisors and colleagues, who all said that I had done my best and it wasn’t my fault. They told me not to worry about it.

For my trouble I did not get to eat my lunch, and instead, I had to go with the manager to deliver the document. The people I met were sympathetic but said that they had to follow their time guidelines.

It may be a mixed blessing that we didn’t get to submit our project on time. The entity we were dealing with that set the hard deadline demanded so many requirements (some of which contradicted each other) that we were having to be part-lawyers just to figure out what they wanted, and how we could best respond to what they wanted. No wonder many companies and firms do not like dealing with governmental agencies.

So after an unusually warm spell of weather, it rained again today, and the next few days should be chillier. I think it’s important to take time to decompress, and to work through any feelings I might have (I’m usually not very good about being in touch with my feelings) as quickly as possible.

Anyway, a failure now and again is good, for it makes us take a look at our processes and how we can improve them. All I can say is that me and my fellow writers could have/should have been more forceful about setting internal deadlines. Then again, it’s hard to enforce those deadlines when someone above you is pulling the strings. So we all do the best we can in as little time as we can.