Sunday, May 4, 2008

May 5, 2008 – Keeping Junk and Throwing Valuables

Value. It is a word that has come up several times over the last few weeks. My wife recently snagged me two Eisenhower dollar coins (1974 and 1978) she saw someone spending. We were also speaking to a realtor about possibly selling our house. Neither the coins nor my house were worth as much as I had hoped, but without knowing their value I might have given away something for nothing.

This can happen on your project. It starts with a promise made during a meeting or by one of your team members while gathering requirements. Then, as you start to estimate it and assign a cost, you realize that what seemed simple will break the budget. Here’s how to avoid the problem.

  1. Scope Definition. Get it drawn up and agreed to. Whether you are using Use Cases Models or hand written napkins, spell out what you were asked to do and get it agreed to.

  2. Scope Awareness. Publicize what is in and out of scope. Make sure your team understands the need to keep the design and development focused on what is agreed to and nothing else. Stress the same concept with the business, too.

  3. Change Readiness. Create a way to change the scope: a change management process. Assure everyone that change is good and can result in a better finished product. Lay out the path an idea needs to follow to become a reality. Include what constitutes a change; estimating the effects on cost, time and resources; and who has to approve it.

  4. Idea Promotion. Encourage your team and the business to identify changes, especially early in the requirements and design phases. Drawing out those ideas gives you an opportunity to deliver something of real value. Once they are identified run them through the change management process to determine if or when they will be included. Some ideas may be good enough to oust existing scope or extend the project. Others will hit the wish list and never see the light of day.

  5. Effective Giving. Even if you are giving something away, determine and communicate the value of it. Adding another field to a display may not be significant, but one request can become twenty if the perception is that they are free.

Now you have the right people making the best decision while removing you from having to say "No!" all the time.

On the flip side, too often we hold on to things that have no real value. Garages quickly fill up with slightly broken electronics, old monitors, lamps missing shades and even partially bent golf clubs. When the garage is full people rent storage units at $150 or more per month to hide things they can’t part with. At those prices it doesn’t take too many years before the money spent could have purchased brand new replacements for the broken items.

Project secrets are not worth the price. I’ve had to pay before. On a project with clearly defined testing dates, one group continued to tell me they were on schedule. The Monday that testing was to begin we held a final go/no go meeting. They arrived to inform us that they had completed... their design. Construction was far from finished. If your dates are slipping, be the one to step up and identify it as a Risk. Do everything humanly possible to complete on time, but get the problem out in the open.

Unproductive resources cost too much. Sometimes we think that any resource is better than no resource. Compare your dead beat developer against that statement. Is he producing anything of value? Is she bringing the moral of the team down?

Check your value system. Are you throwing away valuables or holding on to junk?

1 comment:

Josh said...

Being in the midst of negotiating scope while trying to set the baseline, this hits home. Change management is key, and thinking about inevitable changes up front and putting a process around them makes things much more clear and easy. We must always defend against gold plating without a commensurate increase in our budget or schedule.

Josh Nankivel