How to Lead a Maintenance Window and Not to Die in the Attempt

Tips to survive this apocalyptic event

I’ve been doing this for a couple of years and I’ve learned some things that may be really helpful. Most of the times, the success of a maintenance window is granted by the previous work and the capacity of the leader to quickly solve any problem.

In this case I’m going to focus on the most critical component of the window: the leader.

Well-done previous work is vital, but if you’re actually facing the maintenance window, ideally, you’ve gone through a list of pre-checks that “guarantee” you’ll be successful. This does not always happen, and that’s when the leader has to show all his solving capacity and creativity.

So here are some tips that will be helpful and can make the difference between life or death.

First things first

“Leader” must be clearly defined. He, the rest of the people involved in the window and the client, need to have clarity about who the leader of the activity is. I insist, this is particularly important.

If it is not clear, some important things might be compromised, such as client-supplier communication, disordered debugging, people doing the same thing at the same time, etc.  All this unfocused effort will surely make it more difficult to accomplish the established goal.

Order

Order is relevant because it helps the rest of the team, and the client itself, to keep calm and quiet, which is extremely necessary to analyze any problem or just to develop the activity successfully. Order needs to be developed through time and experience, as it is in fact, a skill. However, if not developed yet, a leader can always resort to some useful techniques to be tidy every time he has to face this kind of work. One thing he should try is previously listing every little task that has to be done during the activity. As silly as it seems, he should list it and check it after it’s completed.

Vision

An absolute vision of the activity and which spots it touches are vital. In an ideal world, the whole team has to have a full, global understanding of what the activity is about. But, in the real world, at least the leader must have the whole picture. This includes, for example: what we could be possibly affecting with what we are doing, which are the things that the client has to do in order to let us do our work, etc.

Forecast

As a leader, you must try to cover up all possibilities, look at what may happen next. At least, you’ll need to know what should happen with everything you do. If it does not happen, well… it’s time to check if something went wrong or if it was you who went wrong. To make this possible, what really helps is to previously study every step you’re going to make in the maintenance window. Test it, if you can.

Guidance and communication

Guide the activity; take full ownership of what your team is doing. Communicate every step and decision you take. Make sure that the whole team is following the evolution of the maintenance window. Talk. Not much, but keep the communication channel open and be sure everyone is connected to it.

Good relations

This point is my personal favorite. With this I’m sure I’m not making you have an epiphany but, it is so important and game-changing that it’s worth mentioning it.

I don’t mean that you have to be friends with everyone, but if there’s a problem you must know who to call and you will surely need that person to answer. So this is a major thing to take into account. One thing that may help is letting people that are involved in the activity (including people that are not actively working but, in case of a problem, may be necessary to call), know that you’re responsible for the success of the activity and that you are committed to doing what it takes to guarantee that. Always show true empathy and fellowship with every team member.

Last but not least

Teamwork. Promote it. Make it possible. Make it work. Every team member is important and part of your job is to make that group of people work united and as one. That’s the easiest way to close the maintenance window successfully; we all know that.

Obviously there are several ways to lead an activity, several ways to make things happen and several ways to work in teams. But I can assure you these few tips will help you succeed in leading maintenance activities.

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