So, does this picture bring up bad memories of late November or early December – out in the cold, hanging these up and not sure if all or any of these bulbs were going to light? For me, this picture reminds me of projects and how, even in shops that claim to be Agile, we still have these ugly containers called “projects” hanging around. And, the memories are still as painful as the “hanging holiday lights” nightmare.
Think of any idea dreamt up by someone in the business as a light bulb – pretty familiar visual, huh? Now, think of the last project you worked on. You needed to spend way too much time packaging up all the ideas / light bulbs into a heavyweight project charter or, worse yet, a requirements document for the sole purpose of getting leadership approval for the intent or to get project funding. Once we got an approved project, the business was never sure if they were going get another “project team” allocated to them again for another 2+ years. So, instead of just starting to work on one “idea”, they felt compelled to package as many of those ideas together into a “Project” container – a big ugly box of ideas. The box is inherently full of lots of dependencies and too many ideas to get done in any reasonable amount of time. Little to no prioritization of the ideas – well, because they are all going to get done as part of the project – right? Guess what, this “idea packaging” takes a lot of time and none of us wanted to be responsible for forgetting some important idea to “put in the box”. This is just the beginning of the torture we like to call “Project Orientation”.
What’s the alternative? Release Orientation (see our first article). There are two key points from the ugly box of ideas. First, avoid the need for leadership approvals for everything. You need to train your leadership to empower decision makers at lower levels in the organization – as close to the delivery teams as possible. Second, create teams that are statically allocated to a slice or stream of the business. If they believe that they will always have teams allocated to them, the fear of losing development / delivery capacity goes away and the box of ideas a team can deliver can get much smaller.
So, here’s an idea – stop creating ugly boxes of ideas!
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