Your project has a landing zone

by | Jun 13, 2017 | Uncategorised

Agile projects can be summarised by two, hopefully converging, lines – scope and completion rate. It’s the simplest and most insightful visualisation of likely outcomes and possible options and very effective at engaging stakeholders.

The historical trend of these two lines is easily extrapolated into the future. You can either use the median/mean and standard deviations or a more sophisticated forecast based on Monte Carlo simulation. A probabilistic forecast will give two funnels of likely trends, and the ‘landing zone’ simply shows where these two funnels overlap.

Even the busiest stakeholder can quickly understand this representation of likely project outcomes – particularly when you show the range of probable completion dates.

Several of our clients now use the burn-up as the central artefact in their governance packs.

Engage ‘the business’ in helping to land the project

Too often business stakeholders feel frustrated in their inability to influence the outcome of a project, leading to stress, dysfunctional behaviours and poor decisions. It’s often not clear that managing the scope is the key factor determining the likely completion date, even if there is an effective product owner and a well prioritised backlog. Extending the metaphor, we have two joysticks which will help land the project in that zone. It will require collaboration between ‘the business’ and ‘IT’ to make the landing successful. The development team (and others) hold the joystick that influences the completion rate. Whilst the product owner and business hold the scope joystick.

Countering myths with a data-based approach

The evidence, from many of our clients’ projects, is that scope adjustments have a much greater impact on the dates than the completion rate. This is probably based on a couple of incorrect myths.

Even the busiest stakeholder can quickly understand this representation of likely project outcomes – particularly when you show the range of probable completion dates.

Several of our clients now use the burn-up as the central artefact in their governance packs.

Engage ‘the business’ in helping to land the project

Too often business stakeholders feel frustrated in their inability to influence the outcome of a project, leading to stress, dysfunctional behaviours and poor decisions. It’s often not clear that managing the scope is the key factor determining the likely completion date, even if there is an effective product owner and a well prioritised backlog. Extending the metaphor, we have two joysticks which will help land the project in that zone. It will require collaboration between ‘the business’ and ‘IT’ to make the landing successful.

The development team (and others) hold the joystick that influences the completion rate. Whilst the product owner and business hold the scope joystick.

Countering myths with a data-based approach

The evidence, from many of our clients’ projects, is that scope adjustments have a much greater impact on the dates than the completion rate. This is probably based on a couple of incorrect myths.

Myth 1: Scope stays relatively constant during the project

Stakeholders often imagine that the scope is relatively well known at the beginning and then stays flat’ish… a bit like this.

When in fact scope is more often more like this..

… and there may be very good reasons for this…

… the point is that everyone needs to be aware of it, and that starts with being able to see it.

MYTH 2: THE TEAM CAN INCREASE THROUGHPUT TO MEET THE DEADLINE

We have found that the completion rate of the stable teams is relatively constant – and therefore the projected range of likely completion rates is relatively narrow.

In the example below, IF we take an evidence-based approach, then it is clear that there is no chance that the optimistic rate below is suddenly going to increase significantly. The optimistic and pessimistic lines show the likely (85% probability) future completion rate.

OVERCOME RESISTANCE TO REDUCING SCOPE

Attempts to reduce scope often meets strong resistance which the delays addressing the issue until there are few options left to affect the outcome.

Various political forces get in the way. People may find it risky to own up to a difficult truth or may be holding onto scope as some kind of bargaining chip – either way, it is to the detriment of the organisation.

This simple, real-time, unambiguous visual representation cuts through the political crap – enabling stakeholders to realise they have to take action AND that there is action they can take to influence the outcomes.

I wrote about such a scenario in this earlier post about how a simple burn-up chart prevented organisational group think from crashing a critical project.