Learning from repetition

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Ever noticed how quickly things come around again? No sooner than you’ve accomplished something, there it is again warranting your attention.

Twelve months ago this month I completed my first charity Etape du Tour after months of preparation and planning. And now, I find myself having done my second, successfully summiting the infamous cycling climbs of the Col du Tourmalet and Hautacam on 20th July -however, this time around it was a very different story indeed! 

Just like the bi-annual or annual tasks that we undertake to keep our systems up-to-date, upgraded, fully functioning and well performing, we perhaps sometimes take things for granted. Because I’d done this particular event before, I have to admit I took a few liberties and perhaps approached a few elements of the trip in a much more lax manner than the year previous. And I learnt so much more the second time around.

  • Don’t assume that conditions will be exactly the same as the last time
    On the face of it, everything was the same as last year: same country, same time of year, same type of route. However, other factors came into play that I didn’t plan on: the weather, riding on a different bike, the higher altitude of some climbs.
    The same can catch you out when carrying out those less common tasks in your software/hardware environment: erp software upgrades, extraordinary backups, and server or data migrations. Whilst on the face of it, conditions are the same as the last time you carried out the same task, however Operating Systems, configurations, infrastructure, security and network changes may have all gone through minor modifications in the past year, so be sure to cover all the angles when planning your upgrade/migration/admin task.
  • Don’t let standards drop
    Just because this isn’t the first time you’ve done something, shouldn’t mean that you should allow yourself to ‘ease off the gas’ and cut corners. Subsequent tasks are just as important as the first run, and when dealing with software installations or upgrades, you should keep to the same standards as always – cover all the angles, carry out multiple backups to err on the side of caution at all times and prepare a detailed training plan that you stick to.
  • Don’t take new kit for granted simply because it’s new
    If you have purchased new hardware since the last time you undertook your task, don’t simply assume that new hardware doesn’t need to be tested in the same way as everything else. A few trial runs in the months prior to the undertaking will pay dividends later. Although I didn’t quite have the chance to do this myself after purchasing a bike box in March, I really wished I could have spent a few test runs packing and un-packing the box- especially in the rain!
  • Set a realistic deadline
    As part of the training I undertook this year, I set a deadline two weeks prior to completing the event. Do the same for your administrative duties/upgrades/installations and keep to the deadline as best you can.
    Cramming everything in a few days before the deadline is not the way to do it.

As with any task that is repetitive in nature – either monthly, annually or less common – learning from your mistakes and noting potential improvements for next time allows us to refine our processes, complete tasks to an agreed timeline and result in less heartache on the big day. This is most pertinent when dealing with major software upgrades.

Needless to say I will be undertaking a similar ride again next year, and will be putting all of the past two years’ experience to good use to complete this event too, refining my own training plan once again. Watch this space!

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