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Article

A Cartegraph Carol: Project Implementations of Past, Present, and Yet to Come

One of my favorite holiday stories is told through Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” Maybe it’s the recollection and varying interpretations of the past. Perhaps it’s how it shows what is really present—here and now. Or, it could be the anticipation of future possibilities.

One thing is for sure, no bah humbug here! I decided to take stock in this fable and revisit the local government software and project implementations I've carried out over the past 17 years. What would the ghosts of past, present, and yet to come have to say?


Ghost of Implementations Past

What did I learn from the successes and failures of past local government projects?

Looks like we may have missed a step or two swiftly diving into this project. We’ve rushed in without enough information and the gaps are posing challenge after challenge. The team looks to be communicating quickly, yet, without all the information imperative to understanding what needs to be done in the project.

Interestingly enough, we seem to have tied some things together nicely. Though we started not knowing who should do what or even how to accomplish some of the deliverables, once we took the time to define our resources and contributions, effective teamwork began to show.

Lessons Learned:
Build effective and innovative teams.

Foster a culture that encourages everyone to ask questions. Successfully supply and receive information through clarifying and verifying. Create value by creating a continuous loop that asks questions, rephrases understanding, and confirms what to do with this information.

Helpful questions to ask yourself:

  • What information could be missing?
  • How would I find out more?
  • What would happen if I approach this with curiosity?
  • How is that different from an approach only including a need to be right?
Take time upfront to establish clarity and accountability.

Identify who needs to be involved with the project and what their role will be. Clearly defined roles contribute to ownership, accountability, and effective teamwork. Wonder how we define roles at Cartegraph? Check out our Customer Implementation Project Roles outline.


Ghost of Implementations Present

How do I show up in the present moment and how is that affecting my projects, my team, and our city’s vision and goals?

What a doozy. I’m tied up, task after task after task. I try to focus on what others are saying, but in my head, I’m computing the next move. Getting things done is important, but it appears to be hampering the connections and energy of the group—and the project. We accomplish so much, yet we’re not celebrating our successes and wins. I’m losing sight of “our why,” and others are too.

Then, I noticed something else interesting. I recognize our process efficiencies and the way we’re getting things done. We take the time to explore, innovate, and fail forward. We test things out knowing there will be failures, so we can learn, grow, and get even better results down the line. I recognize we're actually pilot testing: trying things out in small increments, then going back and refining what we found. We’re creating a series of steps the team can repeatedly use to be productive and reach our goal.

Lessons Learned: 
Move through the day with more intention and focus.

While being mindful of what is important, invite people in instead of shutting them out. The words, actions, and decisions you’re making with clarity and intention have turned on that superpower feel. Amplify this superpower by spreading it around and celebrating your small wins. There are always creative ways to show appreciation, recognize contributions, and intentionally celebrate daily victories.

Helpful questions to ask yourself:

  • Am I making this task more important than the relationship?
  • If I choose to decide in this moment, what’s most important and what will I focus on?
Encourage testing and failing forward.

We sure felt alive when we were brainstorming, collaborating, and moving into a space that allowed us to create new progress and results. And, once we established systems that worked for us, we were able to improve our approach, increase productivity, and use it over and over again to create efficient processes.


Ghost of Implementations Yet to Come

What are the real outcomes we are looking for and why have we chosen to commit ourselves to this?

This is starting off a bit shaky! The team seems a little unclear. In a room full of service leaders passionate about their community, I’m sensing a lack of direction and understanding of why all this is happening. I’m going to stick around for a while and see what happens.

That was worth the wait. Addressing our earlier situation proved most valuable, and we are now taking action and seeing results. A system is in place that removes data redundancy, saving office personnel over an hour a day! We’ve also improved employee efficiency and productivity with field data entry. And, a snazzy dashboard is showing sponsors the return on investment.

Lessons Learned:
Take time to create and share clear goals.

Communicate like a confetti cannon just went off! Discuss, define, and understand “your why.” List ways you can improve the understanding, knowledge, and visibility of your goals to your team, organization, and citizens. Build goals with the customer in mind and think about the best way to engage your community.

Helpful questions to ask yourself:

  • What result are we really looking for?
  • What could happen if we don’t make this change and reach the result?
  • Who benefits from this result?
  • How does this goal need to be communicated?
  • What small changes or actions can be made to support it?
Meet your targets by creating measurable, actionable results.

Identify the actions you can and will take, then create ways to measure those results. Define the different ways you can observe and gauge your success, like calculating your return on investment, time and resource savings, and citizen satisfaction. Choose. Commit. Deliver.


Ebenezer Scrooge never saw the ghosts again. But, he kept the spirit alive in his heart. He discovered there was still time for change and improvement. After my visits, I'm energized and excited. Excited for failing-forward, celebrating the small wins, and reaching goals that tell the story of why it’s all so important.


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