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Sunday, August 06, 2017

Do Not Shortcut the Instruments or Tools to Realize the End Product

This weekend I invited a close friend of mine to visit a nonprofit leadership center I oversee to give us some advice. He is a seasoned executive at a large retailer and supervises dozens of stores around the region. As head of the institute, and the main instructor my attention is usually drawn to compliance, curriculum and the overall performance of the organization. As he walked in he joined the trailing part of a financial reporting meeting and offered a couple of suggestions for a new program, we then proceeded outdoors to take a holistic view of the organization from outside. What comes next was very interesting.

He pointed out weeds on the sidewalk, and some stains on the building trim. Then he pointed out a few items that are not obvious to someone like myself who mostly focuses on the results and end deliverable. In other words he was able to make me realize that sometimes we get so entrenched in the mission or objective of the project; or we are operating on an agile framework delivering the next generation product while in the process the tools and artifacts used to get there are sub-quality.

Quite often on complex technology projects the team is busy delivering product value and checking off the deliverable list, while in the process they neglect the tools and instruments used to achieve those deliverables. For example the engineering team might produce a set of technical documents, however the document might not be totally polished like one that is being presented to the end user; margins might be inconsistent, different fonts on the same page, figures not numbered.

Agile project management should not mean producing internal PMO artifacts that have mismatched fonts or different font sizes, margins that look off, or a document that is lacking a table of contents. While it is true the client will never see these documents, and its only for the purposes of planning, but the fact that an instrument overall quality and aesthetics will eventually reflect the end product.

The lesson I learned is that a good balance across all areas of a project or organization is required. It is not enough to have a quality product, even if it sells well. The process in achieving the product also needs to be totally shiny and attractive even though the client is not paying for it.

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