Unleashing Innovation and Productivity Through Extreme Time Constraints aka "Shrink That Project!" Pascal PinckTwitter: @pascalpinck Web: col-labor-ation.com Used with permission
How long do your projects take?Hours? Days? Weeks? Months? Years?
Long projects have real benefits • Time to "get things right" • Time to do foundational research • Allows us to tackle large chunks of work • Allows us to build up momentum • Provides personal/team clarity → reduces "existential overhead"
Long projects also have big drawbacks • Integration risks • Market risks • Compounding delay costs • Parkinsons Law*: "Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion."*Cyril Northcote Parkinson, 1909-1993, British naval historian
In its most abstracted form, a project is…An interlinked series of discoveries, decisions, & actionsmade in support of an explicit, unifying objectivein a context of limited resources, evolving capabilities, & changing stakeholder needs.
Can this be done in very short cycles?Yes. Some examples:
Lets revisit our definition. A project is…An interlinked series of discoveries, (= learning/understanding) decisions, (= selecting/prioritizing/negotiating) & actions (= creating/executing/delivering)made in support of an explicit, unifying objectivein a context of limited resources, evolving capabilities, & changing stakeholder needs.
A minimum viable project:Includes some 1. selecting of available goals, resources, and strategic constraints 2. prioritizing, especially which tasks to OMIT 3. negotiating, especially tradeoffsAnd results in some 1. shared learning about the market, especially end users 2. shared learning about the problem/solution space 3. creation of value based on this shared learning 4. delivery of value to stakeholders 5. shared learning about ourselves and our way of working
What is NOT (necessarily) required • Formal planning • Explicit mitigation of all (or most) risks • Heavyweight (or even pre-defined) processes • Expectation of a particular outcome • A formal leadership structure • Documentation
Less is good!Less work • Less work-in-progress • Less task switching • Less induced work • Less low-priority work • Less work that gets thrown away • Less procrastination (= work avoiding work)
Less is good!Less debt • Less social debt ("conversations not had") • Less tradespace debt ("tradeoffs not made") • Less prioritization debt ("nice-to-haves not let go of") • Less bad news debt ("nasty messes not uncovered")
Extreme time constraints are an engine for innovation
An engine for innovationHistory shows that high-pressure, time-constrainedenvironments are extremely hospitable to breakthroughinnovation.
An engine for innovationExtreme time constraints • Snap people out of regular routines • Call forth intense attention and engagement • Make bureaucratic processes irrelevant • Promote transparency and disclosure • Raise the bar on team performance • Force stakeholders into proximity • Encourage swarming • Encourage the simplest possible solution
Drawbacks/downsidesThis type of project… • Is cognitively, physically, and emotionally intense • Can expose significant organizational weaknesses • Can expose a lack of shared goals/vision • Can expose poor relationships in the organization • Can cause "iteration fatigue" • Can disrupt flow in some cases • Can be hard to scale
Estimating & budgetingFor short or iterative projects…"Do as little estimating as possible."Why? • Were almost always wrong. • It tends to divert time and energy from delivering actual value. • It delays our contact with the market • It defers key discoveries, especially the most unpleasant (and expensive) ones.
Instead… try "Scope Flex" • Timebox is fixed. • Resources are fixed. • Team does as much as they can in the time allotted with the resources they have.
Instead… try "Scope Flex"Three caveats 1. Team must work on things in the order of big-picture importance (e.g., stakeholder value and/or risk). 2. Team commits to completing something of true stakeholder value by the deadline. 3. While the team gets to decide the specifics of what gets delivered, they do so in an ongoing dialog with the key stakeholders.
Key success factors • Frequent interaction with customer/market or proxy • Leaders who model transparency and disclosure • High-bandwidth communication • Tolerance for ambiguity • Willingness to learn iteratively • Openness to failure • Social/organizational safety • Ideally, a small team (< 20) • Shared cadence/rituals • Co-location helps
Image creditsImages used under creative commons licensep2 – tomato see http://www.flickr.com/photos/darrenhester/p3 – baker statue see http://www.flickr.com/photos/learn4life/p4 – sad face see http://www.flickr.com/photos/seandurham/p6/14 – question mark see http://www.flickr.com/photos/barlowgirls/p8 – scrum board see http://www.flickr.com/photos/acarlos1000/p9 – code screenshot see http://www.flickr.com/photos/unavoidablegrain/p9 – warning lamps see http://www.flickr.com/photos/jankrutisch/p10 – control room see http://www.flickr.com/photos/ericolson/p10 – news set see http://www.flickr.com/photos/fellyphotos/p12 – football see http://www.flickr.com/photos/annerossley/p17 – reams of paper see http://www.flickr.com/photos/luschei/p19 – spoons see http://www.flickr.com/photos/jek-a-go-go/p20 – credit cards see http://www.flickr.com/photos/shoot-art/p23 – stopwatch see http://www.flickr.com/photos/julianlim/p24 – bees see http://www.flickr.com/photos/kaibara87/p26 – warning sign see http://www.flickr.com/photos/neumeyer/
Image creditsImages used under creative commons license (contd)p29/30 – arching back see http://www.flickr.com/photos/trussmonkey/p31 – running track see http://www.flickr.com/photos/a03575/Publicity images – in wide releasep9 – Humble/Farley and Duvall books: Addison-Wesleyp13 – Kinect device: Microsoftp13 – 3d visualization: adafruit.comp22 – all images: NASAp32 – Poppendieck and Highsmith books: Addison-Wesleyp32 – Pascale book: Crown Businessp32 – Anderson book: Blue Hole PressOther image creditsp8 – scrum diagram: Mike Cohn / Mountain Goat Software. Used by permission.p11 – all images: BrainStore Ltd. Used by permission.