location_city Washington schedule Sep 23rd 04:15 - 05:00 PM EDT place Room 6 people 6 Interested

Date driven behaviors are common in many pre-agile organizations. They are as bad as sin and produce bad outcomes when considered through a long range lens. This presentation targeted to managers and leaders in organizations in the early stages of agile transformation. Scott will lead an entertaining and provocative look at how classical date driven behaviors often produce outcomes that are the opposite of what those leaders ultimately desire. Scott will suggest an experiment to focus on the virtue of frequently delivering incremental value as an alternative to those date driven sins.


Outline/Structure of the Talk

The hypothesis: “Due dates” cause more waste and uncertainty than useful purpose when applied to complex knowledge workers.

Review the sins

1 Adding pad to a “due date” estimate due to fear of looking bad or disappointing , resulting in fuzzy expectations.

Shift the focus of management to incrementally delivering some thing of value every few weeks. Stop focusing on dates which most of use are unable to predict with any accuracy. Use quick delivery of incremental value frequently to build confidence and trust with your customer shifting the focus away from being on schedule.

2. The next level of management adding pad , resulting in even fuzzier expectations.

Fear of missing expectations exists in multiple levels of management. That same fear makes it difficult to confess to your manager that there is pad in your estimate, hence the manage adds more pad to your estimate or an aggregate estimate. Result is lots of fluffy packing material wrapped around a decent estimate a product manager like to have for a most likely case estimate.

Better to keep management away from estimates made by people close to the work and use relative estimation ( this is like that task we did last month) and historical information about the performance of the team. ( a small task usually takes roughly a 3-4 days for the team to complete)

3. In the fortunate case of getting ahead of schedule folks cruise to fill time to meet expectations, resulting is wasted time and effort.

More often than not we need more time to meet the date but with all that padding once in a while people get ahead. They may feel they deserve some breathing room so the cruse for a bit. This confounds our understanding of what does it really take to get x done, making future estimates more difficult. Better to organize work so that people operate at a sustainable pace and once in awhile plan some “free time” to innovate and explore.

4. In the fortunate case of getting ahead of schedule/ date folks gold-plate, resulting in bloated solutions. This turns a fortunate occurrence in to a negative one where a more complicated solution is produced that will be more expensive to maintain for years to come.

When working in small batches that don’t have specific delivery dates people are more likely to do what is necessary, stop and then move on to the next item. We avoide the we “ might as well since we have the time syndrome “

5. Focus on meeting deadlines sets the stage for people to compromise on testing and quality measures like code reviews causing integration and quality problems down stream, resulting in unpredictable deliveries and poor quality solutions.

Who hasn’t seen the time frame for testing work get compressed in a schedule. Guess what happens? Ideally do the tests first but most of all avoid the situation where working under stress late at night or on weekends people are tempted to compromise on testing and quality practices.

6. When people "think" they know when they will be done they may lead others on to make unrealistic plans, resulting in waste and lack of confidence in plans.

Better to vary the scope and stick with forecasted delivery date. Then all the supporting processes and people will have confidence and be better prepared for absorbing change.

7. When managers believe they need dates to motivate and push people to work, they end up getting people who are dependent upon dates to get stuff done. This results in people/teams that don't know how to self manage unless there is a date hanging over their head. Result is lower performing people and teams.

In Dan Pink’s book “Drive the surprising truth about what motivates us “ he identifies how powerful intrinsic motivators are.. Relying on intrinsic motivators is a much more powerful way to lead. And, it attracts a more talented group of people resulting in even greater value creation.

In closing have I made a sufficient case that you are willing to start an experiment working towards removing due dates in your organization?

Question comments?

Learning Outcome

Create uncertainty and doubt regarding the old ways of managing by dates.

A sensitivity to what date driven behaviors are.

Greater sense of curiosity regarding lean practices.

Target Audience

managers and leaders of enterprises in the first years of agile transformation.

Prerequisites for Attendees

Familiarity with an agile method such as scrum and a history with classic project management methods.


schedule Submitted 2 years ago

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