Saturday, 21 December 2013

Project Inception: The Forgettable Mnemonic



This blog is designed to help me to remember the thing that I'd created a mnemonic about, so I didn't forget. I did forget it, immediately after presenting on the topic. So, writing it down should help.

So, when you want to kick off your project in an expedient but sensible manner try my charming mnemonic, IWOOWI (pronounced I-WOO-WI):


Iterate, Man! 
If your engineering iterations are two weeks then limit your project inception to that period too. There is an excellent chance that more thinking than this will only ever beget more and more thinking at this point.



Who Feels What About Which or Whom and Why? 
I know, this is awkward as you'll need to ask about feelings. Let me put it this way, how many rational decisions were made on your last project? Humans are inherently irrational, place no expectations of sensible decisions on your stakeholders. Discovering how they feel about a feature/deadline/other stakeholder is more useful information than what they know. As it will be what they think they know.


Obvious? 
The software development world does so many things which don't have an obvious reason why they should be done. Not every reason is obvious. Being non-obvious is sign. When the bus is about to run us over it is obvious that we should take evasive action. If your project/product has no obvious reason for existence, ask the question.



Optionality 
In the beginning you will meet those who wish to confirm, finalise and nail down each and every aspect of your project. It is a tempting thought. Until the entropy of time gets involved. Resist these nail-downers and approach your project kick off with a view to increase your options, not narrow them.
Why is this so hard? - If your project kick off is unforgiving, then what you shouldn't do is doggedly push on with your plan to get under way, you should ask the question of why this is so. Perhaps some of the previous parts of this mnemonic are in play, most likely your stakeholder engagement is not what it might be or the critically important project that you are about to embark on is not, well, all that important.



If stuff built > 0 && {insert kick off document name} !signed off 
This test provides an examination of how effective your current process really is. If the kick off document that you have slaved over is still awaiting a rubber stamp 10 weeks into the project, I think you know how keen your stakeholders are on both your project and the way you've handled the kick off phase.

This mnemonic summarises (for me) the key to an effective project inception, setting the tone and direction of the humans involved. Technology and process plays a part but I believe (and experience tells me) that your humans having a similar vision at the same time is crucial for successful delivery.

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