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When a Project Goes Wrong, then Stop; Breathe; Plan a positive review

Argghhh – the Project has GONE WRONG!… too often we freak out in an self loathing, whining mess. Especially when there’s more than one team involved. OK.

OK. Take a moment. Stop your teams from running around in circles and screaming.

We usually forget the good things! And,… there will be good things again.

Take a breath, and plan a “Lessons Learned” Project Retrospective:-

  1. to put things back in balance,
  2. to establish what needs to be done differently next time,
  3. to emphasise what was great about the project,
  4. to draw a line under the project so that negativity can’t damage us any further, and
  5. to get the teams talking again.

One tendency though, is that negativity can be brought into the Lessons Learned session.

So – how do we keep the Lessons Learned Positive and Productive?

Getting the Right Facilitator is really IMPORTANT!

Important attributes for your Facilitator:

  1. Neutral – was not directly involved in the project
  2. Positive – is self-starter, positive and always pushing for the best
  3. Pragmatic – has a grip on what is feasible and reasonable
  4. Some sense of humour – sees the humorous side of things
  5. Has knowledge of the area – understands the business in question

A good Facilitator must:

  1. take all points as valid, and record them carefully
  2. prevent defensive behaviour – “it’s happened, let’s get this point recorded”
  3. prevent arguments or tempers from flaring – “we’ll record everyone’s points – they are all now valid – remember the Prime Directive :)”
  4. keep track of time – be sure that everyone is getting their opinions in, and that noone is allowed to monopolise the available time
  5. encourage insights from quieter participants – there are likely to be dominant characters, so make sure the quieter ones get a chance to share
  6. be fair, and praise contributions – keep the atmosphere positive and light by being fair, listening well, and giving praise to brave or focussed insights

Focus on “How to do better next time”

Focus on “how to do better next time” rather than “Who got it wrong / what was wrong this time”.

Use Norm Kerth’s “Prime Directive”

Norm Kerth’s Prime Directive is generally accepted as a great way of staying positive in your retrospectives :

Regardless of what we discover, we understand and truly believe that everyone did the best job they could, given what they knew at the time, their skills and abilities, the resources available, and the situation at hand.

Set out your Lessons Learned Agenda

You can use this Agile Lessons Learned template as a good basis and structure on which to build.

This helpful Agile Lessons Learned Template lays out a good framework for your session, and includes helpful notes for the facilitator, guidance, and mistakes & pitfalls to avoid!

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  • Make it short and clear.
  • Set the times for each section.
  • Prepare the room for what’s going to happen.
  • Stick to your times.

Further help with your Lessons Learned Session

You can find a complete guide to how to run an Agile Lessons Learned Project Review here.

More Project Review and Lessons Learned Templates

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Simple Roadmap Templates to help with your Presentation

Our Simple Roadmap Templates use successful Roadmap design formats that are popular the world around. Download these Simple Roadmap Templates now.

We’ve been developing a variety of Roadmap Templates for a few years now, and we would like to offer these ones for a reduced price!

Simple Roadmap TemplatesSimple Roadmap Templates
The Simple Roadmap Templates communicate your product or project plans simply on 1 side of paper

Features of our Simple Roadmap Templates.

  1. A4 Page size (premium are A3)
  2. Title area
  3. “Version” area
  4. Roadmap Legend
  5. Four Roadmap Workstreams
  6. Activity bars in each workstream
  7. Configurable Timeline
  8. Milestones

Our Simple Roadmap Templates are A4 Roadmap formats. For our larger and more elaborate roadmap templates, see the Roadmap Template Samples and Examples.

See all of our Roadmap Templates.

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Managing Stakeholders in Agile Projects

Managing Stakeholders in Agile Projects can be tough in large or old organisations. Have you heard this: “YES. We are agile. But you must tell me what I will get and when!” It’s painful.

The natural tension between Agile and Senior Stakeholder Structures

Upper management in large organisations and Programme Management structures (e.g. PMO) have a natural conflict of interests (or ‘tension’) with agile principles – i.e.

  1. Management and PMO want details on what is going to be delivered and when – i.e. Definition Up Front! – and
  2. The Agile product delivery team want to adapt and change dates and features as & when the customer/audience change – i.e. Definition When it’s NEEDED!

Addressing the tension – how to run Agile in large Stakeholder structures

So – how should we approach the comms around an Agile Project / Programme, and stakeholder management?

The Powerpoint Agile Roadmap Dashboard slide shows project status + Roadmap
The Powerpoint Agile Roadmap Dashboard slide shows project status + Roadmap

Clear “Release” / “Goal” Planning

  1. Describe your Releases (i.e. the significant product drops / deliveries) clearly
  2. Provide a clear 1-sider about each release, outlining what the business goals are

Manage expectations with “The Cone of Uncertainty”

  1. For each aspect of the release, clearly define the expected variance of estimates, according to degree of certainty
  2. So, if you have allowed e.g. 2 sprints / iterations for a feature, but do not plan to unpack the user stories until later on, assign an appropriate +/- 40% caveat to the estimation
  3. For more info
    1. see Agile 101’s understanding the cone of uncertainty.
    2. or Wikipedia’s entry on Cone of Uncertainty.

Focus on Epic User Stories / High-level Features

i.e. use High Level Requirements (EPICS / Features / Themes) to define the delivery

  1. Do not break down your Epics / Features into user stories unless:-
    1. They are about to go into iteration, or
    2. They are very high risk or unknown, and you can’t attach any estimation.
  2. So – avoid breaking down the WHOLE delivery into User Stories.
    1. It is in direct conflict with Agile and Lean to invest in definition unless you NEED to.
    2. So – only spend the teams’ time on defining user stories at the point of implementation.
  3. Keep these high level requirements flexible – this gives you agile wiggle room and scope flexibility at the point of implementation.
  4. Estimate the Epics in Story Points or T-Shirt sizes.
    1. See estimation recommendations here from Agile 101.

Keep Progress Clear

  1. Update your stakeholders regularly on where you are with Features / Epics implementation.
  2. Use a simple format (e.g. Release Plan) to explain which workstreams are delivering which features, and when.
Excel RAID Log & Dashboard Template
Excel RAID Log & Dashboard Template

Run a High-Level RAID Log and reference your Epics

  1. Use a RAID log to speak in Senior Stakeholder ‘lingo’.
  2. Keep this light, and do not go into too much detail.
  3. Update each sprint, or as serious RAID changes emerge.

Leave room to manoeuvre within your Epics

  1. When defining your high level features or “Epics”, keep the scoping high-level.
  2. Be clear and strategic about the scenarios and success criteria.
  3. Assign risk information to your Epics – raise stakeholder awareness of which features are risky / giving issues.
    1. This will enable them to help you prioritise.
    2. In healthy organisations, this provides a diologue in which to descope and reprioritise high level features.

Include High Level “Non Functional Requirements” (NFR s)

  1. Be sure to include any significant NFRs.
  2. e.g. (and not limited to-) :
    1. Ingegration requirements.
    2. Load testing, User testing, Stakeholder Acceptance testing requirements.
    3. Performance testing.
    4. contingency for all of the above.

Communicate Agile Plans to Senior Stakeholders

Here are some reporting formats that you can use to communicate Agile plans to Senior Stakeholders:

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Define your Product Rollout Plan

The Rollout Plan Template - Powerpoint Presentation
The Rollout plan Powerpoint Presentation

Planning your Product Rollout is crucial. You need to design the workstreams, and put project controls in place to be sure your rollout stays on track.

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You can see our ready-made, tried-and-tested Rollout Plan Template here.

How to Plan your Product Rollout

Define “Success” – Your Rollout Objectives & KPIs

  1. What does success look like? – you must document this with measurable success criteria.
  2. Once you have this, you can identify some points in the rollout when you expect to be able to measure the “Performance” of the rollout.
  3. You can record these as Milestones, and as KPIs to focus the team on.

Understand your Risks, Assumptions, Issues and Dependencies

  1. In order to ensure the best possible rollout, you to understand what might affect your success negatively, and manage each of these factors.
  2. In project management terms, this is your RAID log, and includes documenting and managing your:
    1. Risks
    2. Assumptions
    3. Issues
    4. Dependencies
    5. View RAID templates here
  3. Track, mitigate and manage your RAID items through the Rollout process

Define your Phases & Timeline

  1. With the above points in mind, set your timeline for the Rollout.
  2. Base the timeline on a realistic and achievable timescale, and with your RAID items in mind.
  3. If it makes sense to the whole project, split your timeline into Phases, and name them

Define your Milestones

  1. Along with your KPI points, set milestones so that you can monitor project progress
  2. Be sure to get regular Status Updates, and ensure the wider team and stakeholders get Status Reports

Set out your Workstreams & Project Activities

  1. In Agile projects, and in larger Programmes, your team and activities should be arranged in Workstreams
  2. Each Workstream should represent a team, or a particular area of delivery; e.g. “HR”, “DEV”, “CATERING”, “FINANCE”
  3. Plan the project activities, and the KPIs out into these workstreams, along the timeline
  4. Ensure the Workstream participants have contributed, and helped form each workstream plan

Communicate your Rollout Plan!

  1. Agree the Timeline, Workstream, KPI and Activity plans with your team
  2. Create a Rollout Plan Presentation, with your team
  3. Present to all teams and stakeholders
  4. Give your team and Stakeholders Status Reports frequently throughout the Rollout

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Business Documents UK Rollout Templates

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Project Plan

Powerpoint Project Plan Template

The most effective Project Plan presentations are individually tailored for your audience – one size does not fit all. Browse these plan formats.

Project Plan Template showing a 2 year timeline, workstreams and milestones
An example Project Plan – showing 2 years timeline in a roadmap format; milestones and workstreams

Your Project Plan – Who are you showing it to?

Be very clear about your audience – you will need different project plan approaches for each scenario:

  1. For executive audiences use a Roadmap format to show project plans: Powerpoint Roadmap Template, Visio Roadmap template.
  2. For Product Manager audiences, you should use a Product format: Powerpoint Product Template, Visio Product Template.
  3. To show your product team workstreams what they are doing, use a Project Plan Template format.
  4. For your developers, you should have a release plan, showing activity per iteration.

Some Agile Release Plan Formats

 

 

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Agile Resource Planning – build your workstreams!

Powerpoint Resource Plan Template for Agile Projects

These Agile Resource Planning formats will help you plan and communicate resource plans. Ideal for Product Development & Business Transformation.

The Powerpoint Resource Plan shows resource types, workstreams, milestones and named individuals
The Powerpoint Resource Plan shows resource types, workstreams, timeline, milestones and named individuals within each workstream.

Resource Planning document formats enable you to form and communicate your resource plans. Particularly with agile workstreams, you will want to assign a workstream team, and support them in working to the product backlog.

Agile Resource Planning

  1. Shows capacity
  2. Shows team members
  3. Shows workstream focus
  4. Shows allocation
  5. Shows key delivery milestones
  6. Shows risk status

This screenshot shows the Powerpoint Resource Plan Template.

Agile Resource Planning formats