Project schedule vs Backlog: a battle without chances

    In the age of the enlightened ajaila, it is no use even to use such words as "project schedule". And although many project managers can raise an eyebrow high, I still say:
    The project schedule is not needed, harmful, dangerous and fraught!

    And now, having made such a shocking statement, I will try to explain myself and prove to you that all project schedules should be replaced by backlog wherever possible, and perhaps it is everywhere.

    Plan around the head

    What is the implied strength of the project schedule? Of course in planning.

    Theoretically, if you have a plan in which there are volumes, a budget, resources and deadlines, this is good! Project sponsors are calm, because they have something to competently report to shareholders. Stakeholders are calm because they know what and when to expect them in terms of changes in business processes, and, consequently, their lives. The project manager is calm because he knows in the end what to do.

    But ... (there is always this damned "but", isn't it?)

    In practice, this monster - the “project schedule” starts to destroy your project right from the very beginning.

    Experienced PM (project manager) and his team, knowing full well that they don’t have much budget and deadlines, start “from expert experience” at the maximum whenever possible. Sponsors who need a good NPV (otherwise there is nothing to go to the shareholders) are starting to cut everything down, business users, looking at what happens, raise the howl to the skies, because with this unviable chimera they then go side by side through life .

    Planning and coordination of the project schedule is delayed, then again, then again ...
    And that's all approved. Yes, planning took three times more time than originally planned, but now everything is on the ointment!

    PM and his team are not in a hurry (because no one will do them in the business of re-laying and their time is full) they start to work their own way. The first two-and-three of the Criminal Code are decent and solid. Until it is time to roll out, finally, some results.

    Project manager is restless

    The first Steering Committee with rolling out the results turns into drama. It turns out that business users didn’t even agree on this, and in general they were amazed by the depth of incompetence of the project manager and his team. They wanted something completely different.

    Sponsors are beginning to slowly rise from the table - they do not see this project at all, and ALREADY reported their vision to the shareholder in colors.

    The manager gets cold. His team is green with anger, because they have already done a lot and to redo already, firstly, there is no time, secondly, it is impossible, thirdly, what the hell!
    The project manager is in a half-swoon, but tries to negotiate with everyone.

    Everyone is amazed at his failure.

    New introductory

    And it seems you can still fix it, the sponsors report on temporary difficulties and delays, which will soon be fixed. The project team begins a round-the-clock gathering to make it “as it should.” And here at the next meeting there are NEW INTRODUCTION from a shareholder. The sponsors are unable to say no and go to the soaked PiEm, slightly rosy face. PiEm understands that now he and the team just will not have time to complete the project schedule; that the project schedule, in fact, nothing left; that half of the project has already passed, and done, in general ... hmm ... nothing, and the question arises, what have they been doing all this time?

    Compromise time

    And it is at this stage, when everyone understands that the failure is near, the total compromise of all with everyone begins. There is no time to introduce the project - it is necessary to rivet the beautiful reporting. It is time to embellish, legends and myths and just a banal lies. All the participants of the action by this moment are already so tied up with a general lie that they no longer argue and do not look for the guilty, because no one will wash off during any disassembly. Together, they roll out a dead man with parted lips in front of the shareholders, constantly repeating that he will still be refined, so to speak, "in the fields."

    The dead, I must say, does not look much worse than most other “successful projects” that shareholders are accustomed to seeing in their company, so ... the project is considered to be implemented. (In addition, shareholders also do not want to admit to the world that the company is inefficient of them, and thereby lower the cost of shares).

    Rewards are distributed, all praise everyone, slightly pinking their faces and admitting their eyelids. PM floods bitter sediment with cocktails in Bali, drank a bonus.

    A curtain.


    So, the project is successfully overwhelmed.

    But could it be different? Was it possible to do without the monstrous “project schedule”, the coordination of which eats up a huge amount of time, lodges false and so different expectations in the heads of all interested parties, and then begins to put pressure on PiEm and the team, which instead of solving real business problems , saw fit products and services and, in fact, add value to the company, are forced to rush in the soap to ensure the “implementation of the project schedule” and at the same time please all stakeholders?
    Yes, it is possible.

    The answer is backlog. Pa-pa-pa-ram-pam!


    1. You are not trying to plan every step, every resource and man-hour. You agree on common high-level KPI and start the project, saving a lot of time on this.
    2. You take the resources that you have and go with them to turn agreed KPIs into user stories. And the benefit here is not only to understand exactly what the picture of the final product is in the user's head. This is also your chance with the help of clarifications and clarifications to form this picture in the right and practical way. (Remember! There is no such thing as “too much change management”)
    3. From these user stories, like real decomposers, you decompose yourself a pretty little backlog and start sculpt prototypes, screaming and grunting from the joy of understanding and meaningfulness of what is happening.
    4. On the first (well, okay on the second) Criminal Code, you drag these unfinished freaks, not hesitating a bit. After all, these are PROTOTYPES! They do not have to be perfect! And during this period, if someone in your team begins to stand in a pose, shouting that he “used to do everything conscientiously,” that “is responsible for his work,” and that “he is ready, only when he is ready,” chase him from the team. Or explain to him the concept of MVP (minimum viable product). You do not need a spoon with inlays and ligature, when everything is eaten. Spoon the road to dinner.
    5. Now. At the same Criminal Code you get the most valuable thing that a project manager can get - EARLY FEEDBACK FROM THE CUSTOMER! When everything just started, when you can change anything and anywhere.
    6. You collect this feedback and leave to bring some improved prototypes in a week. Let them still not perfect, but you add value every time, and so you start to WORK WITH SHORT ITEMS.
    7. Since all interested parties understand and share your vision, and, moreover, they themselves take part in the creation of the final product, everyone has a clear understanding of how quickly the project is proceeding, whether there are enough resources to accelerate and why, obviously, you need to give up as from the non-viable, you do not waste time on numerous approvals, “new introductory” and justifying someone's false expectations, and the implementation takes place in a calm working atmosphere.
    8. In addition, now you not only successfully implement the project, but also build healthy, productive and positive relationships with sponsors and clients, consolidating your reputation as a genius project manager and a team of powerful professionals.
    9. You are still implementing a project that will amaze shareholders, who are used to the dead, with their vividness, that they will start thinking about the corner room for you and about the IPO for your company!

    And most importantly, friends!

    You are constantly developing, learning and getting great pleasure from your work!

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