The process of planning

In whatever time is allotted for defining the project, create a simple process for answering the planning questions. If possible, each perspective (business, technology, and customer) should have one person with expertise in that area driving the research of information, generating ideas and proposals, and reviewing her thoughts with peers from other perspectives. The trick is to keep this small enough to be productive, but large enough in perspective to be broad and comprehensive. A group of 10 people will be much less effective at discussing issues and developing team chemistry than a group of 5 (see Chapter 9).

From experience, I'd rather deal with the bruised egos of those who are not main contributors to planning than include too many people and suffer a year or longer on a poorly planned and heavily compromised project. The mature people who you do not include will understand your reasons if you take the time to explain them, and the immature will have an opportunity for growth, or motivation to find employment better suited to their egos.

If you're using planning deliverables like the ones I briefly described earlier in this chapter, the goal of the planning group should be to create and publish those documents for the team. The planning phase (see Figure 3-3) ends only when those documents (or more importantly, the decisions they contain) are completed.

Figure 3-3. The feedback between levels of planning.

Figure 3-3. The feedback between levels of planning.

A draft version of each planning document should be prepared early enough to incorporate feedback from the team before a final version is due. As shown in Figure 3-3, there may even be a simple feedback loop between deliverables. When the draft of an MRD is created, someone may be able to start working on the vision document, raising new questions for the MRD that improve it before it's finalized. This pattern repeats through all of the planning work. So, even if there are hard deadlines for finishing planning docs, some overlap in time is healthy and improves the quality of the process. As shown in Figure 3-4, when a project is in mid-game (implementation), it becomes harder, though not impossible, for this kind of feedback to propagate back up the planning structure. (Alternatively, Figure 3-4 can be thought to represent a contracted team that has influence over specs and work assignments only.)

Figure 3-4. As time goes by, it should become harder (though not impossible) for changes to propagate back up the planning structure.

3.6.1. The daily work

As far as the daily work of planning is concerned, there's no magic way to go about doing these kinds of collaborative tasks. People are people, and it's impossible to skip past the time it takes to get individuals who are initially of different minds to come together, learn from each other, and make the arguments or compromises necessary to move things forward. There will be meetings and discussions, and probably the creation of email distribution lists or web sites, but no secret recipe of these things makes a big difference. Be as simple and direct as possible. The leader sets the tone by starting the conversations, asking the important questions, and making sure the right people are in the room at the right time. However, there are three things to keep in mind:

• The most important part of the process is the roles that people are expected to play. Who has requirements authority? Design? If many people are involved, how will decisions be made? How will ties be broken? With these sorts of relationship issues defined early on, many problems can be avoided or, more probably, handled with composure and timeliness. (See Chapter 10 for more on relationships and defining roles.)

• Everyone should know what the intermediary points are. What are the milestones between day one of the planning effort and the day when the project definition is supposed to be complete? The timeline for deliverablessuch as reports, presentations, review meetings, or vision documentsshould be listed early and ownership defined for each of them. When exactly does "planning" end and design or implementation begin? There should be good, published answers.

• There should be frequent meetings where each perspective is discussed.

Reports of new information or thoughts should be presented, and new questions or conclusions should be raised. Experts from elsewhere in the organization or the team should be pulled into these meetings when they have expertise that can help, or if their opinions would be of value to the group.

The project manager is often responsible for consolidating each meeting and discussion down into key points and making sure conclusions reached are written in stone in a place the group can easily reference. Questions or issues raised should be assigned appropriately and then discussed at the next meeting.

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21st Century Home Business Strategy Blueprint

21st Century Home Business Strategy Blueprint

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