This Month’s Pattern *

71 Loud and Clear

The project’s goals are clearly and repeatedly articulated.

The goals of a project are its requirements and constraints at the highest level. These goals need to be stated early and revisited constantly by everyone on the project. Why? Because people working in an organization often have conflicting individual goals. The salesman wants to maximize the gross revenue from his sales, since his commissions are based on revenue. The product manager wants to maximize the profitability of his line, so his boss will consider him successful. The engineer wants to get all the promised functionality into the next release because a bonus is riding on it. These goals do not align; they may even be in conflict. Organizations are big, messy things, and unless conflicts are made visible, they will not be addressed.

A project can’t be messy for too long or it will be rudderless. Up front, the goals need to be articulated, reviewed, and refined, so that there is a reasonable assurance that the various patrons and stakeholders have truly converged on an agreement for the expectations for the project. When a project is building a single system that straddles several city-states of organizational power, it may be no mean feat to find a single set of goals in a diverse community.

If the stakeholders can indeed find a set of nonconflicting goals, then these goals become the vision for the design and construction. However, even if the goals have been properly defined, they are of little use unless they remain visible. Without constant reminding of the overall target for the project, it is too easy for people to forget them and lose sight of the project’s main purpose.

    Carolina, a business analyst with one of our clients, started a big project by getting the stakeholders together and helping them to converge on a common set of project goals. Then she wrote the resulting goal statements and their measurements in large letters on a poster-sized card (see Figure 71.1). She took this with her to all the project meetings and sat it on its own chair. Whenever things went off track, she used the goal to help people refocus: “Either the goal is wrong and needs to be revisited or we are going off track.”
    She says that two key factors contributed to the success of her approach: Everyone was heard when the goal was set, and the goal was kept visible to everyone throughout the project.

Analysts and business people aren’t the only ones who need to keep track of the goals. Designers need to know the goals in order to make informed design choices, asking for example, “What is the expectation for the operational life of the system? If we run it three times over its life, we may want to design differently than if it will run all day, every business day, for at least the next decade.”

Just about every project is under time pressure, and as the project proceeds, it may become evident that not all features can make the first release. Which features make it into Release 1 is clearly based on decisions made by product and project management, and those decisions are anchored by the goals.

Having correct goals is crucial. Keeping everybody aware of these goals makes an enormous difference to the project and to the product it produces. Like Carolina, you need to give your goals a seat at the table.

* Each month we plan to publish here one of the patterns from our Jolt Award book, Adrenaline Junkies and Template Zombies — Understanding Patterns of Project Behavior. (Watch this space for a mere 86 months and you'll have read the whole thing.) The book is published by Dorset House Publishing, in the US and Hanser Verlag in Germany. It is available at Amazon and also as a Kindle book.


Oslo, Mastering the Requirements Process
13-Sep-2016 to 15-Sep-2016

Mastering the Requirements Process with Suzanne Robertson. Contact Den Norske Dataforeignen for details. 

Brussels, Mastering Business Analysis
14-Sep-2016 to 15-Sep-2016

James Archer teaches Mastering Business Analysis. Contact IT Works for details of this course.  

Stockholm, Mastering the Requirements Process
27-Sep-2016 to 29-Sep-2016

Brussels, Mastering the Requirements Process
11-Oct-2016 to 13-Oct-2016

James Robertson teaches Mastering the Requirements Process. Please contact I.T.Works for details.  

Hilversum, Mastering Business Analysis
11-Oct-2016 to 12-Oct-2016

James Archer teaches the popular Mastering Business Analysis. Details from Adept Events in English or Dutch.

Brussels, MRP part 2
13-Oct-2016 to 14-Oct-2016

Rome, Mastering the Requirements Process
17-Oct-2016 to 19-Oct-2016

Rome, Mastering Business Analysis
20-Oct-2016 to 21-Oct-2016

James Robertson teaches Mastering Business Analysis. Contact Technology Transfer for details of this course.  

Hilversum, Mastering the Requirements Process
8-Nov-2016 to 10-Nov-2016

James Archer teaches Mastering the Requirements Process. For details please contact Adept Events. Dutch description, or in English.

London, Mastering the Requirements Process
15-Nov-2016 to 17-Nov-2016

James Archer teaches Mastering the Requirements Process. For details and registration, please contact IRM UK.

Wellington, Mastering the Requirements Process
22-Nov-2016 to 24-Nov-2016

The ever popular Mastering the Requirements Process. For details please contact Software Education.  

Canberra, Mastering the Requirements Process
28-Nov-2016 to 30-Nov-2016

Mastering the Requirements Process. Please contact Software Education  for details and registration. 

Melbourne, Mastering the Requirements Process
28-Nov-2016 to 30-Nov-2016

Suzanne Robertson presents Mastering the Requirements Process. Please contact Software Education  for details and registration. 

Sydney, Mastering the Requirements Process
5-Dec-2016 to 7-Dec-2016

Suzanne Robertson teaches the popular Mastering the Requirements Process sponsored by Software Education.

in depth

A Ruby Beam of Light, Book I of Tom DeMarco's Andronescu's Paradox saga is now available in English in paperback and ebook, from Double Dragon Publishing.

"This war isn't going to blow anything up, only turn everything off."

Suzanne and James Robertson's "Requirements: The Masterclass LiveLessons-Traditional, Agile, Outsourcing". 15+ Hours of Video Instruction. 

Take a look at Tom DeMarco's Risk Management for Dummies article, published in CrossTalk.

Als auf der Welt das Licht Ausging, the German edition of Tom DeMarco's science fiction epic, Andronescu's Paradox, has now been published by Hanser Verlag in Munich.  Translation by Andreas Brandhorst.

James Robertson’s webinar for Software Education explains how agile stories are best used to ensure the right solution. Writing the Right Agile Stories on YouTube. Download the webinar slides.

Suzanne and James Robertson’s article The Requirements Food Chain explores how the originators and consumers of requirements interact with each other as the requirement matures.