Project Management Lessons Learned – When Things Don’t Go According to Plan (part 2)

In last week’s post, I gave the background behind my project management lessons learned from an audio book project. I’ll pick up where I left off last time…

What I didn’t count on were all of the small details that presented large hiccups. Authors can’t submit a chapter at a time to see if ACX (the author portal for Audible) will accept the sound quality. The entire work has to be submitted for review. I wasn’t going to record all 43 chapters of The Inefficiency Assassin – only to have it rejected due to sound quality – so this led to creating a mini-audio project as a test. But wait, you can’t just record any old material for ACX and Audible. The work needs to already be in ebook or standard book format and for sale on Amazon. So I created a mini-ebook about how to be successful with New Year’s Resolutions. Once this was approved for sale on Amazon, then I was able to create the “practice” audio book.

I hit a sound snag. ACX rejected my initial recording because my room was too loud (humming from a light, fan sounds from a computer, electrical interference from the furnace – sounds I couldn’t really hear when I listened to the recording on my computer). This led to watching and reading more tutorials about how to deaden the room noise, which led to completely reconfiguring my makeshift sound studio in the guest bedroom. I now had what looked like a shantyville made of blankets, but it apparently worked. My audio was accepted. After this three-week unplanned tangent, my experiment was deemed a success, which meant I was now ready to record my “real” audio book. It was now almost mid-December.

But did things go smoothly from here on out? Of course not. Who knew that reading what you yourself wrote could be so difficult? It takes two to three times the reading length to properly record each chapter. Stuttering, mispronouncing words, skipping words or sentences…each occurrence means a re-do. A fifteen-minute chapter can take 30 to 60 minutes to record.

While listening to one of the chapters that I’d recorded, I realized that despite having a “sound booth” I could hear my stomach growl and my glasses click. This meant re-recording. And then I developed a bad USB cable which started to emit clicks and hums, so I had to wait on the arrival of a new cable and re-record those chapters.

Then there was the editing. I’d edited podcasts and other audio, so I was familiar enough with Audacity software, but I wasn’t prepared for the amount of editing I’d need to do because my nasal passage made a word sound funny or I suddenly developed a lisp on one word or I pronounced the letters p or k too hard. Jiminy Christmas! I speak publicly for a living, yet I seemed to not master the appropriate sounds and pronunciations while reading my own book.

When January 15, 2018, rolled around, and I still wasn’t finished recording, and I still wasn’t finished editing, I needed to face some cold, hard facts. This would be the first time that I hadn’t met a deadline. This really bothered me, but I had to finally give myself permission to let myself off the hook because beating myself up wasn’t helping matters.

I finally reached out to someone who’s experienced with recording and editing audio books. She gave me a tutorial. Her explanations were crystal clear and helpful. The problem now was that it would still take a great deal of time to get good at implementing everything that she showed me.

I was taking entirely too long on the technical aspects of this project. I could invest more time in mastering these components, or I could face the fact that this skill isn’t my full time business, so I should farm out to someone who is a pro.

In February, I reached out to a sound engineer whom I was referred to by a colleague. We agreed that I would finish the recordings and not hire a voice artist to start from scratch. We agreed that I would edit for the manuscript, meaning I would make sure that I took out my “oops” incidents and do-overs so that he would not have to sit with my book and read along to make sure the recording was word for word. Instead, his focus would be on what I couldn’t do well or quickly, and that was mastering the sound.

If I’d gone to the sound engineer from the beginning, my project would’ve been finished two months earlier, and I would’ve saved countless hours of time and frustration. I won’t dwell on this, but I will remember it because it’s project management lessons learned. Go with a pro when you don’t know what you’re doing – and you don’t have all the time in the world to learn.

What kept me going through all of this mess was the promise that I’d made to that young lady from my audience back in September. I always keep my word, so I needed to finish this audio book. What also helped were the public declarations that I’d made to my accountability partners in my mastermind group. I was driven to have some kind of progress to present at each check-in. This was a project that needed to get finished, and I was going to see it through. My audio book was approved on March 9 and went on sale on March 16.

To sum up the project management lessons learned:

1) Always base your decisions on the most updated knowledge and research.

2) Seek guidance from experts, especially if this type of project is one that you’ve never worked on before.

3) Consider acquiring an accountability partner to help keep you focused and on track.

4) Reflect and reassess at least weekly. If this type of project is one that you’ve never worked on before, consider doing this daily.

5) If other people are relying on the delivery of your finished project, keep them in the loop about your progress.

6) If you encounter setbacks but still deem your project as one that must get finished, don’t be afraid to reschedule by weeks or months if necessary in order to produce quality results.

7) Bring on team members as needed – even if you’d originally planned for this to be a solo project.

By the way, here’s my audio book for The Inefficiency Assassin. (At last!)

Good luck with your projects! And please remember my project management lessons learned.

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