Postpone Work With a Parking Lot

If you are wondering, “What do I do with the work I said no to?” here's the answer. Use a parking lot.

This is the image from Manage Your Project Portfolio. I recommend just four columns: the project name, the date you put the project on the list, any notes about value, and any other notes about the project.

I do not recommend you add in any current schedule estimate. In my experience, by the time you want to address the project, any estimates are no longer valid. The code base changed, the people changed, the product roadmap changed and nothing you thought of before is that useful. If you do add estimates, note your assumptions.

I recommend you review the parking lot at least a couple of times a year if you are reviewing the project portfolio on a quarterly basis. You might decide to review the parking lot every quarter and see if you still want those projects on the parking lot. Remember, the idea of the parking lot is to remove anything that doesn't make sense for now from consideration. it clears out your brain to focus on what does matter.

If you can't finish projects quarterly, don't review the parking lot quarterly. Don't add more work to your list!

You might try to use cards on the wall (pushpins on corkboard). I find that if the cards (or the stickies) fall because the project idea is so old, that's a good thing. That's one way to kill projects. If you must keep an electronic list somewhere, make it someplace everyone can see it. Allow people to add to it. I wish I could say allow people to remove projects, but that's probably my pipe dream.

My experience is that management teams seem to be allergic to cards or stickies. They want to preserve the information or ideas.

My experience is that ideas are not the problem. My clients (and I) have plenty of ideas. What we don't have is time (or teams) to do all of it at the same time.

Yes, I use a parking lot for my own work, too. This is not my full parking lot. It's mostly things you might expect, given what I've been writing about. I use Evernote to manage my parking lot because I don't have enough wall space in my office. (I have many books!)

I find parking lots useful in many ways:

  • I don't have to think about this project until I am ready to do so
  • If I know about potential project problems (bending the laws of physics or needing specific expertise), I can add that to the notes about the project.
  • I can decide when it's time to examine my parking lot.

I review my personal parking lot every time I finish a major project, such as a book. I don't finish a book a quarter (!), so I review my parking lot on a less regular basis. I do notice if I'm not doing work on my personal kanban. I have choices: I might add that work to the parking lot, I might decide to outsource the work, or I might kill the work.

If you have questions, please use the comments to ask. I've been using a parking lot for so long I no longer remember what it's like to not have one.

I didn't intend to write a series. I'm glad you folks asked me questions so I would! Here are the posts in the series:

Manage Your Project Portfolio, 2nd editionIf you are not managing your project portfolio, it's probably managing you. Read Manage Your Project Portfolio and learn how to manage your flow of work.

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