What will you do when it goes tits up?

When an email with the subject line ‘Malicious activity from hacked applications under your accounts‘ greets you on a Monday morning, you know it’s going to be an interesting week.

This site had been taken down by my web host, and the above email stated that it was my responsibility to resolve it.

OK, don’t panic. All the content is backed up right? Oh crap.

What about the subscribers list – was this copied into Excel for safe keeping? Double crap.

Got a contact to hand who can provide technical support for WordPress, and finding and updating .htaccess files? Triple crap.

OK – PANIC!

It got resolved eventually (obviously) but being totally unprepared for this attack meant it took a lot longer than hoped.

I got caught out, and as a result it set me back a couple of weeks. I had to stop doing other stuff in order to focus on the unexpected need to resolve the problem.

It sparked a memory of something a previous colleague used to say on a regular basis in relation to IT projects:

‘What will you do when it goes tits up?’

Repugnant? A little.
Pessamistic? Yep.
Pragmatic? Yep, that too.

His view was not that the quality of work was so bad that it was doomed to fail, but that overt optimism that everything is always going to work out just like you planned (hoped), is not a valid reality. In fact we need to at least fleetingly consider the exact opposite, and have in mind an idea of how to bring things back on track.

Framing this around the assumption that it will go wrong, adds urgency and clarity to your thought process when considering your back up plan.

No need to over do it and map it all out to the nth degree, but we need to be realistic of the possibility of something less than perfection occurring.

If you are an optimist this might not be your first consideration, or you may feel hesitant to focus on the negative, but having this outlook does not mean you permanently adopt a downbeat nature.

You can be realistic and optimistic at the same time. Realistic that things will sometimes go wrong, but optimistic that whatever comes up there will be a solution in the end (and you’ll probably learn a bunch of stuff along the way).

It’s a reality that this site could get hacked again, however, next time it will get resolved much quicker due to the new knowledge and technical skills picked up in sorting it out, plus it’s now backed up, the subscribers list is downloaded into excel, and the phone number of someone who can provide technical support is in my contact list.

Clearly we can’t plan for every eventuality, in every circumstance (we are not navy seals after all), but for projects that have a clear time line, big events that you expect to happen, or for things in your life that you care a lot about, it’s always good to be open to the fact that it could go wrong, and have an idea about how you would sort it out.

Plan A

What are you working on right now that’s important to you, and what will you do when it goes tits up?…

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