“Sticking the landing” is a gymnastics term referring to not moving the feet after landing from mid-air. Any movement of the feet outside a very few predefined movements will result in lost points; which, in a gathering of the best-of-the-best like the Olympics, is often the difference between going home with a medal and going home without.
Sticking the landing as a more abstract concept exists anywhere there’s competition – including, of course, business. You can complete a huge IT project with a lot of hard work – but if it hasn’t been truly completed to customer satisfaction, then you haven’t stuck the landing. Clients might not mind this once, twice, even a few times if they really like you; but it’ll eventually get old when clients realize that “done” actually means “almost done” where your work is concerned. Once that happens, the days of the business relationship are numbered.
How can you make sure you’re “sticking the landing” and seeing IT projects and/or problem resolution through to proper completion? The following are three tips I’ve found useful in the course of my career to ensure projects and problems are handled to client satisfaction and keep the customer relationship strong:
1. Understand the Problem.
This needs to be done at the outset of the matter. Not understanding the problem is like being blindfolded and running a race on an unfamiliar, winding trail. Yeah, you may have a general idea of where the finish line is; but if you don’t understand everything in between, then you’ll cross the finish line only with a lot of luck and wasted time.
When you begin work, take some time to understand the problem. If a user can’t login, find out why. Where is the problem located? With the user? The computer? The network? The domain controller? Are there error messages? Unusual behaviors from the device? Use what information is available to build a true understanding of the issue and get a feel of the path ahead.
2. Follow a Process.
In the fast-paced world of IT support, it can be tempting to continuously fly by the seat of your pants. If you know what needs to be done to solve a problem, then why not jam it out right away by the sheer power of your own superb intellect? If you’ve ever heard of the phrase “shooting from the hip”, then you know why – because while it may be awesome to feel like John Rambo, shooting from the hip is a terrible way to hit the target.
There’s a time and place for flying by the seat of your pants; but whenever possible, don’t just yank a solution out from the brow of Zeus and hope for the best. Determine the process needed to bring the project/problem to resolution, and follow it. It’s not uncommon for me to notate the steps of problem resolution in bullet-points before taking action; this gives you an opportunity to prepare yourself mentally for the steps ahead and have others QC your plan before making any mistakes. Not only does this provide you with a guide, but also a record – if there are residual issues after the process is through, you can go back step-by-step and see where you may have potentially gone wrong, or perhaps made the wrong decision somewhere.
3. Test and Validate.
When you consider the job done, don’t drop your tools on the ground and simply peace out like you just finished carving the Easter Island heads. Is the problem really solved, or do you just think it’s solved? Test your solution and validate it’s success. When possible, don’t just test on your own either; get with the client and validate that the solution works for them. To modify an old adage – if the client ain’t happy, then ain’t NOBODY happy.
Stick those landings and be the one who clients can trust to bring it all home. Remember, the margin of victory between Olympic gymnasts often comes down to the tenths or even hundredths – which is to say, minute differences at the margin make or break the performance. Don’t forget to stick the landing – it may make the difference between you and your closest competition!