In this issue:
One senior manager in an organization trying to use agile told me about his problems, “We still need to know when the project will be done. We can’t afford the risk of missing the deadline. When we spent all that time on requirements, the team knew what they were doing. We got an estimate. I always added 20%, but I had something to go on. Now, I don’t get an answer. I don’t know how to manage the risks at the organization level.”
He’s got a point. Providing relative estimates or velocity as a capacity measurement does not help senior management plan or manage their risks.
On the other hand, I’ve never seen an estimate that’s accurate past a month or maybe six weeks. I wrote a book about estimation so people could learn what they might be able to do for estimation. Manage It! has guidance on replanning because Murphy’s Law has a way of visiting projects, regardless of their approach.
This senior manager is not alone. He managed project risk before by adding his 20% to the estimate. (Let’s not discuss whether 20% is the right amount! That requires a beverage of your choice and lots more time.)
Instead, let’s see if we can help the senior manager by providing the knowledge, along with how we will manage risks.
I like rolling-wave deliverable based product roadmaps with frequent releases to help manage risks for projects and programs. When you organize releases around deliverables and deliver those features often, you can manage risks.
The roadmap is not a guarantee you can eliminate or reduce risk. Here are two problems with roadmaps: large feature sets (what some people call epics and themes) and long-duration releases.
The bigger the feature set, the less likely the team(s) can deliver it when you want. The longer you wait between deliverables, the more your release is at risk. The roadmap becomes a wishlist, not a risk management tool.
Software product development is learning. The more frequently we release, the more we accelerate our learning. The more we learn, the more we can manage risks.
There are no guarantees in projects. And, we can manage our risks by acquiring more knowledge with frequent deliverables. Instead of providing relative estimates (which do help teams), consider providing a roadmap of small frequent releases composed of small features. Your managers will gain the knowledge, see the risks and stop asking you for guarantees.
I am offering several online workshops starting in January, 2017.
Writing Workshop 1 helps you build a daily writing habit. Super early bird registration ends November 18, 2016. Past participants have loved this workshop.
I’m offering a new workshop: Writing Workshop 2: Secrets of Successful Non-Fiction Writers is for those people who have the writing habit and want to improve. Super early bird registration ends Nov 25, 2016.
The Practical Product Owner workshop helps you learn to build roadmaps and the stories that help the team deliver working product. Super early bird registration ends Nov 25, 2016. Past participants have appreciate the pragmatic approach to learning how to create rolling wave deliverable based roadmaps and small stories.
Are you new to the Pragmatic Manager newsletter? See previous issues.
If you like the idea of romance between smart technical women and just-as-interesting men, I’m starting to write romance in my spare (!) time. See Johanna’s Fiction.
Till next time,
© 2016 Johanna Rothman
Tags: agile, deliverable, estimation, product ownership, project management, replan