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formerly of Professional Project Services, LCC
I have a new appreciation for a specific project need after teaching a Mastering Requirements course earlier this week. I had asked the participants to come up with examples of goals or requirements for a situational software product. However, I did not offer them the two most important pieces of information, the project vision and objectives. It was an oversight on my part. I erroneously thought that they would automatically have the same vision as I if I provided a clear project title such as Classes Registration System. Two things happened.
They had a hard time getting started on who the users and their goals would be for the system. There wasn’t a clear place to start without knowing whose problem they were trying to solve or what the objectives of the project were. Instead they would tentatively put an idea out and look for clues that they were on the right track. The ideas were rolling once I said “the project is…” and “the objectives are …” You could see the light bulb turn on, “oh, so that’s what we’re doing.”
Another exercise was to take a stakeholder statement “I want full details on students” and interview me to get to the real need. I inadvertently tripled the size of the project by adding requirements related to a Customer Relations Management (CRM) system. Lucky for all of us, one clever participant spoke up, “I thought this was a class registration system. It sounds like you want a CRM solution for marketing.” Oops…busted! Yes, I was the scope creep.
It is much easier to call “creep” on an instructor in a classroom setting then it is an executive manager within your organization. You are likely to run into “just do it” even if you do say something. Your best defense…a clear, documented vision and objectives for the project to serve as a guide and negotiation tool.
Vision – a description of how the world looks after project implementation.
Students will be able to sign up for designated classes and the organization will have a record of who has attended what classes.
Objectives – expected measurable results from project implementation.
Responding to ideas outside of the vision and objectives become much easier with this context. Now the BA can respond with “how will that help us meet the objectives of the project?” when the business owner says “I want the student’s home address so that I can send a Christmas card”. While having other features may be nice and add value, it clearly does not fit into the intent of the funded, schedule project. Scope creep diverted – schedule and budget saved.
How many “quick, little projects” have you worked on where the vision and objectives were assumed rather than documented? I’ll admit it, I’ve seen a few. It won’t happen on my projects, or in my class, after seeing the difference that simply documenting and agreeing to these makes. That doesn’t mean I won’t try to trick students so that we can practice scope negotiation in the future.
More information on this class is available at https://project-pro.us/2012/04/17/master-requirements/. Contact me to bring this class to your area.
I recently read The 2 Most Important Words in Business (forbes.com) and liked the idea that two words describing my philosophy will help shape my business and help others understand me. When it came to thinking of my words, I fell flat. My initial thought was “better” and “value.” While it is true that I want to provide better value to my clients (small local business, government and corporate clients, and students of project management or business analysis alike), it is not the definitive description of me. It was a personal struggle that made me take a second look. What I found is that the values I appreciate most in others are what drives me in my everyday interactions when these values are lacking.
Empathy is not just the ability to imagine yourself in the other’s situation, but also the ability to think ahead to possible situations. This means that before I provide you information, I am going to ask myself “how would I take this information?”, “knowing what I do about the person, how are they likely to receive it?” This does not mean that all information I pass on will be welcomed. It is important that I be able to share any observation or recommendation so that I can provide you benefit as your consultant or coach. Being empathetic means that I will think through options, provide additional information as to why, and support the other person in whatever action they must take.
“Say what you mean, and do as you say.”
The other day I was heads down in my computer when I glanced at the calendar on my phone and realized I was 10-minutes late to meet with a potential business connection. WOW! How I missed the reminders for that I will never know, but I did. I called her immediately, apologized, and told her I could be at our meeting spot in 10 minutes. She had already given up and left but thanked me profusely for the call. I felt horrible about missing our appointment time and still do. This is so rare for me. I have since added more reminders tools on my laptop and phone in hopes that it never happens again. I share this story to let you know that those rare times where I make an mistake I am quick to own up to it, apologize, and try to make things right.
I am always truthful and candid. Bad news makes for better decisions then sugarcoated news. Sugarcoating is for cereal! I deliver bad news empathically and truthfully. It may mean additional research into options to present, or simply lending an ear to the receiver to help work through the problem.
You can always count on me to keep my commitments. I will let you know as soon as possible if I find there is a chance I will not be able keep a deadline or appointment. The thought of wasting somebody’s time is comparable to wasting his money and is not acceptable. The best way to avoid wasting others’ time is to be early or on time. The second best way is to provide ample time to the other so they may adjust their plans.
PPS delivers information with empathy and integrity to those who seek to understand better ways to achieve their goals.