Have you ever taken a great picture with your phone and actually had it printed because you liked it so much? I’ve done that with photos of my kids since the grandma’s don’t do email. But I’m almost always disappointed by the prints. For various reasons, the printed photo looks grainy compared to the image on my phone.
Since I know the limitations of my phone camera, if I want great prints, I simply use my 35mm SLR camera. Prints from my SLR look just like the image on the camera – no surprises. It’s a random thought, but I see parallels in how this same approach can be used to achieve clear communication with our business stakeholders.
In waterfall, you take a picture of the project with your phone and email it to your sponsors. Everyone agrees that it looks great and the project kicks off. Somewhere during the development phase, the project manager is forced to print out the image. Sponsors are shocked to see the gritty truth that the project will cost twice as much and that the deadline is in jeopardy.
In contrast, agile is like using a nice, digital SLR camera. Emailed or printed, every iteration we share sharp images of scope increases, date shifts, roadblocks, etc. Openness and honesty are also an essential part of this communication. And because the business is seeing the relevant details from the start, that becomes their expectation.
So while Project Kickoff Documents and Weekly TPS Reports, like phone cameras, are great for giving people a rough idea of an image, they do little to communicate about the end product. Using better tools, like burn-ups and story walls, we can prevent surprises, which should lead to happier customers.