Project Suicide

This was sort of a funny scene in a project meeting. 


One person describing the challenges at one point, spontaneously and dramatically motions to take a knife and slit both wrists.


This absolutely got people’s attention.


Understanding the struggles the person was expressing, and trying to add a little lightheartedness to the situation, I say:


“This is a tough project, pass around the knife.”


This got a good hearty laugh around the table, with one person saying that this was the quote of the day. 


Anyway, we want to make operations as effortless as possible on people, but the project work to get there is definitely making people work for it. 


Let’s avoid project or people suicide–be supportive of each other, pace ourselves, team together, and problem-solve to get it successfully over the finish line.

 

Soon we can celebrate all the challenges we overcame together and from our determined efforts, all the wonderful results. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Agile Doesn’t Mean Endless

So Agile development is great for iteratively working closely with customers to develop and refine information systems that are useful to them and the organization.


But even in Agile, there is a beginning and an end to the sprint planning and project management.


Taking Agile to somehow mean endless in terms of adding more and more requirements or scope creep is not what is intended. 


Agile has to be bound by common sense somewhere between what is needed for a minimally viable product (MVP) and what is achievable with the designated resources, objective, and scope. 


Good project managers always have to be sound arbiters and be willing to ask the tough questions and determine if something is truly a requirement or simply a wish list item that is out of scope (but of course, could perhaps make it in for future enhancements).


We need to understand the difference between genuine customer service and irrational project exuberance based on inflated expectations. 


It’s not a dangerous project bubble we want to create that can and will get busted, but rather a successful project that is delivered for our customers that help them do their jobs better, faster, and cheaper.  😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Who You Calling Ugly Baby?

So in multiple organizations, I have heard systems referred to as ugly babies!


Whether or not it’s true, it certainly doesn’t make the IT folks that develop, run, and support that system feel very good. 


Are some of these (legacy) systems ugly?


Well, of course, they are. 


Many of them work despite themselves. 


What I mean by that is they are awkward to navigate and use. 


The functionality is flawed or outdated.


The workflows are unnecessarily complex.


The user interface is inconsistent and sloppy. 


The user experience is punishing. 


I told someone recently in using a particular system that was so convoluted:

“Is this system what they give to prisoners and make them use over and over again to punish them for hideous violent crimes?”


Seriously, that’s how it felt, even as I knew it was still lightyears ahead of what a paper process still used in other organizations looks like.


Generally better than the waterfall methodology for the systems development life cycle, I understand that one dilemma with agile development is that requirements can be spotty from sprint to sprint and instead of doing the hard work and thinking it out upfront, users are made to expect a nearly endless series of enhancements and tinkering, which isn’t practical functionally or financially either.


Even an ugly baby is still ours, and we love it and nurture it, and even help it change for the better–that’s part of our responsibility. 


Whether we parented a real baby or an IT system, we have pride of ownership and a sense of accountability to the person, system, and future. 


My father always taught me never to throw out dirty water until you have clean water. 


Similarly, we shouldn’t throw out the (ugly) baby with the bathwater. 


We need to work together–technologists and system users–to make truly functional systems and a user experience more like gaming where the players are so happy, attached (and even addicted) to it that they sometimes don’t even get up to eat or go to the bathroom. 


We should love what we have and use, and we should, therefore, work hard to make these things great.


And an ugly baby can be made gorgeous again. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)