The 3 Missing Ingredients In Today’s Projects

 

badma

Five years ago I wrote a post that was inspired by seeing a lack of courage and tenacity in today’s projects. We have become so risk averse that commodity services & solutions are dominating the marketplace. Commodities by definition make you the same as everyone else. Where is the drive for competitive differentiators and competitive advantages? Where are the bold projects that will change the world?  In absolute safety we have absolute parity and no one ever wins.

I recently heard of a multi-million project that ground to a halt because two major companies couldn’t agree over a process that governed a $75 impact. Why? Not a single person was willing to step outside protocol, methodology or policy, not even a bit, not even for $75. What was a lacking was empowerment to make a battlefield decision. So I want to revise my former post of my “BDMA”  proposed 5 years ago accordingly to include now empowerment as a critical new element.

Today we have lots of methodologies. Lots and lots of them. They give us process, they define artefacts and deliverables, they provide roles and governance and they provide lifetime employment for “gurus” to write bookshelf straining tomes to explain them. For the most part, they are all good and in some other ways they uniformly lack a key component. I respectfully suggest the missing component. It is now newly renamed the Bonaparte-Adams-Drake Methodology Adapter. (BADMA)

BADMA is built on 3 premises from its namesakes.

“The torment of precautions often exceeds the dangers to be avoided.” – Napolean Bonaparte

“For a moment, nothing happened. Then, after a second or so, nothing continued to happen” – Douglas Adams

“There must be a beginning of any great matter, but the continuing unto the end until it be thoroughly finished yields the true glory.”- Francis Drake

For the most part, the adapter injects now three missing components into many of today’s methodologies.

They are:

Courage

To complete a risk analysis, yes but to look very, very closely at the potential impact of that risk should it be realized and to not overstate it. This allows you to think broader and deeper than you did before.

“what if we just scrap that module and start again instead of tinkering with it” . Bonaparte would ask you;” what are the real dangers of just starting again?”. Is it really that heinous? Will it really put you months behind schedule or are you just afraid of taking it on?

Evaluate the time you spend thinking about doing something against the actual effort of doing it and perhaps just throwing it away if it didn’t work.

I recently led a project for a financial services company where some complex business rules for the adjudication were being discussed. We also were to discuss the best choice of business rule engine for the rules to be built in. One of my developers offered an opinion in the meeting. “Why don’t we just do it in BizTalk?” he said. “Why?” asked the client. He said “Well while you were putting the rules on the whiteboard, I coded them. It’s done.” and he demonstrated it. Courage.

Process is good, methodology is good but don’t let it extinguish the spark of innovation and better ideas by being too cautious.

Empowerment

The point of Douglas Adam’s quote ““For a moment, nothing happened. Then, after a second or so, nothing continued to happen” is that nothing will ever change unless something acts on it to effect that change. Somebody needs to DO something, to take the initiative and to be the catalyst for change. They need to be empowered to act.

Policies, standards and methodologies are good things. They keep corporations and projects from driving into the ditch. However policies and standards are the products of negotiation and thus by definition they are negotiable. People establish policies and standards so they can prevent bad things from happening. However if everyone knows with absolute certainty that no bad thing will happen and the invocation of that policy or standard is absolutely creating another bad thing to happen, then the people in the battlefield observing this, need the empowerment to make the call, to break policy and be accountable for it. Policies and standards are not created by omniscient beings. They are based around common occurrences and practices. Yet, stuff happens in the battlefield; unexpected, unknown and probably unwanted. Empowerment needs to exist to make the call and act when adherence to the policy is clearly detrimental to all concerned.

Tenacity

“Thoroughly finished” is not just finished. It’s tested, it’s stress tested, it’s performance tested, it’s user tested, it’s documented completely, it’s peer reviewed, it’s got great code quality, it’s something that you want pull out a source listing for 40 years from now and show your grandkids. It’s making that better design work. It proving that the design was better. It’s innovation to just raise the quality bar just one more notch.

Following a process is not just getting a “tick” in the box besides the artefact deliverable. The deliverable if you’re going to do it, needs to have real value. Value to either the next step in the process or value for reference. On some artefacts, people tend to show some tenacity. I have seen some Use Cases that are well-developed, complete and ready for Analysis. But have you ever read a Use case Survey? Yes it’s a key artefact of the Unified Process and if it exists at all in most projects, it is rarely accurate or usable. It is for most, just a “tick” in the deliverable box. What would Francis Drake have to say about it? Make sure it’s thoroughly finished or just get it out of your plan altogether. In a half-baked form it is completely useless for its intended purpose.

Some years ago I was asked to review the architecture and deliverables of a very large integration project that was “in trouble”. Every artefact was checked in, every artefact was dutifully signed off and upon my review, every artefact was woefully incomplete. Including my favourite description of a complex business process in a Use case. I will quote directly:

“Blah

Blah

Blah”

Thoroughly Finished. Tenacity.

 

So how do you plug my adapter into your methodology? Well … that takes courage ,  tenacity and  empowerment. Perhaps then we will start to see IT initiatives that can again change the world.

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