Aggressive and conservative pipelining

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Often, the coding pipeline only needs to be two or three items ahead of the programming team (if each item requires two days, three items need more than a week of work). It can be an informal discussion between PMs and programmers to agree on the next logical sequence. (Or, if a master critical path or Gantt chart exists, and it's actually not weeks out of date, the pipeline can be derived from it.) This gives just enough of a buffer so that if a blocking issue can't be resolved in time, the programmer and PM have enough time to find another suitable work item to put in the pipeline while that blocking issue gets resolved.

A team with an aggressive posture can bet more heavily on pipelining to prioritize issues. Instead of making an elaborate work breakdown structure (WBS) of all work items, the team bets heavily on changes happening and on the ability for the PM or lead programmer to manage the pipeline. The risks here are higher: if the pipeline gets backed up or can't stay ahead of the team, bad decisions will get made and time will be wasted. For more on building good WBSs and applying them to project scheduling, see Total Project Control by Stephen Devaux (Wiley, 1999), or any good traditional project management reference.

For teams with a more conservative posture, managing the pipeline is a gentle refinement of the original work-item list that was created during planning. The pipeline may be mapped out for weeks or months of work, using the original plan as the source for the pipeline for each programmer. There might be small adjustments, but the expectation is that the original plan will stay viable through, at least, the milestone. When the next milestone starts, a new work-item list is generated as part of planning, and the process repeats. So, depending on how short the milestone is, or how stable a project is, up-front pipeline planning can be made to work.

However, the fundamental point about pipelines isn't how you do it. Every methodology offers an alternative way. What matters is that the pipeline is managed effectively, that the right work items are done in the right way, and that little time is wasted figuring out what to implement next.

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Project Management Made Easy

Project Management Made Easy

What you need to know about… Project Management Made Easy! Project management consists of more than just a large building project and can encompass small projects as well. No matter what the size of your project, you need to have some sort of project management. How you manage your project has everything to do with its outcome.

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