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One of the nice things about agile and lean approaches is that they focus on delivering value. I'm a huge fan of delivering value.
The larger and longer your project or program, the more delivering value is important. That's because your organization is investing in your project or program. They want to know when you will deliver something useful.
Back in the olden days, I was a developer on a very large project. We worked to achieve “Code Freeze.” We didn't. We got to what I started to call “Code Slush.” Most of the code was working, but we hadn't finished all of the features.
By design, my boss had asked us to finish features as we proceeded. We had a working system, even though we didn't have “Code Freeze.” (No, he was not excited about my “slush” terminology.)
That taught me a critical lesson: If we focus on deliverables, we can still deliver something, even if it's not everything the organization wants. We focused on features in that long-ago project. Features were our deliverables. They were valuable for our customers.
We have alternatives now. We can use agile and lean approaches from the beginning of the project or program and create an environment of delivery. Here are three tips to help you create an environment of delivery.
Tip 1: Visualize the work.
If you have a ton of features, or you're trying to corral a program team, create a board with all the work you will do for now. (Create a roadmap, backlog, or a parking lot for the work you won't do for now.) For a program team, I like a kanban board, so we can see the state of all the work. If you're working in a feature team, use whatever board you like.
When you see all the work, you can see the work move across the board. Or, you can see if any of the work is stuck. You can see what you deliver and what you don't deliver.
Tip 2: Make the work small.
I learned the value of small chunks of work long ago. I am a list person. I like to make lists of small chunks and cross them off as I finish the work. Now, I often use personal kanban and move the sticky.
The smaller the work, the more often I finish the work. That helps me maintain momentum and take the next piece of work. I develop a rhythm of one thing, then another, then another, and so on. Finishing work in small chunks helps me finish more work. Think of it this way: Go small to go fast.
Tip 3: Release as often as possible.
I facilitated a retrospective a number of years ago. The senior manager opened the retro saying, “We had to deliver features x, y, and z. You did. Thank you.”
One of the developers said, “Is that all we had to deliver? Because we finished those three months ago.”
The senior manager sunk into his chair, stunned. The organization could have released that part of the product and received the revenue, even though the project wasn't “done.” It was done enough to release that much.
I find it useful to ask, “How little can we do?” in the context of still having a useful release.
If you're a program manager, see Agile and Lean Program Management: Scaling Collaboration Across the Organization for more ideas. If you're a project manager, see Manage It! Your Guide to Modern, Pragmatic Project Mangement. Or, shoot me an email and we can discuss your challenges.
You can still enroll in these two workshops at the super early-bird fee, until June 17:
▪ Practical Product Owner Workshop: Deliver What Your Customers Need: This is a workshop for clarifying the sometimes-impossible role of the Product Owner. You'll practice with your team's work.
▪ Writing Workshop 1: Write Non-Fiction to Enhance Your Business and Reputation. If you want to build a regular writing habit, learn to write effectively, when to edit and when not to, and some ideas about publication, this workshop is for you. I will help you build your daily writing habit so you can write what you want and when.
Reserve your place now. I limit registration for both workshops so I can provide the best possible workshop and learning experience for you.
Email me your questions. I am happy to discuss the details with you.
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© 2016 Johanna Rothman
Tags: agile program management, program management, project management, release criteria, small stories, value, visualize