“Ideas are easy. It’s the execution of the ideas that really separates the sheep from the goats.” Sue Grafton, Author
While not being young, hip or unlucky enough to purchase tickets to the Fyre Festival debacle, I am certainly of an age and experience to read with interest the story of a great idea (cool rock festival on a tropical island) coupled with an apparent astounding lack of preparation, leading to cancelled acts, absent caterers and peeved millennials who posted the debacle on social media real-time.
Whether planning a music festival, backyard BBQ, or a business program with significant technology componentry, don’t start until you are ready to start, then start as you mean to go on. That means ascertaining readiness. Just like a road trip benefits from a full tank of gas and a recent oil change, a program benefits from these readiness criteria:
- The Exacting Sponsor. An executive who passionately believes in the validity of the idea, and is accountable for turning vision into reality. They must be capable of imbuing others with the excitement to get on board and supporting individuals and teams to maintain the grit to deliver. A committee is not a sponsor; however a committee may surround and support the sponsoring executive.
- The Tiresome Charter. I’m all for consigning the traditional 50+ pages of adminis-trivia on scope, schedule, budget, risks that requires signing in blood to the dustbin. However no organization should forego the thoughtful and hard work on determining what needs to be done, why, how, by whom, for how much – and how this will all be governed and measured as it is proceeds through sprints and/or waterfalls to delivery. Write it on a napkin or tattoo it on the back of the Exacting Sponsor, but there does need to be an artifact understandable to humans that explains what the idea is and information about how it’s going to see the light of day such that it delights the intended customers…..
- The Useless Project Plan. See also “Tiresome Charter,” above. It’s not about the elegant critical-path Gantt charts truly appreciated only by the “Annoying Project Manager,” below. It’s about – say it with me – the thoughtful work that goes into who, with what skills, is doing what & when, in a logical order that can be measured, so that the Exacting Sponsor and other interested executives including board members, can reasonably be assured of the investment seeing the light of day and delivering value. Sprints, scrums, Kan-Ban – use whatever tools or frameworks that best fit the project, but absent some method of knowing “are we where we wanted to be, why or why not, and if not, what is being done about it?” you will not know what you don’t know. In CEO, CIO, CFO et al nightmares, the central character is “The Invisible Unknown” waiting to leap up and choke careers and financial results.
- The Annoying Project Manager. Having been a PM earlier in my career, I know that PMs can be a combination of the White Rabbit (inflexible about rules and orderliness) and Jack Lemmon’s Felix from “The Odd Couple” (anxious, perfectionistic). However, great PMs are expert at seeing and eradicating cracks before they become sinkholes, keeping teams collaborating and working together, corralling difficult vendors, working effectively with finance to ensure expenses are managed, demonstrate gravitas and presence with executives – the general contractor & harbor master of the project. Project managers are the “get” in the “get it done.” Note: The Project Manager needs the unequivocal support of the Exacting Sponsor; suggest the sponsor interview and “hire” the PM, even if an existing internal employee.
“Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.” Alexander Graham Bell, Inventor
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