Feasting on Elephant: Planning the Menu

Feasting on Elephant: Planning the Menu

It’s time to eat that elephant feast! How better to start on such a feat than to start with an appetizer? As with any project, our imaginary Twitch broadcast of a gaming group will begin with laying the foundations.

Is it a project?

The first thing we need to ask ourselves is: is this a project? According to the Project Management Institute (PMI), a project is a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product or service. We often take this to mean it’s an activity bound in time, producing a product that was not previously available to the organization sponsoring the product.  Taking our example of a gaming group wanting to broadcast their sessions and create a regular Twitch stream we could say it’s a project.

  • While the group has a gaming session already, the unique aspect is that they are now wanting to stream this. This would be a unique product not currently in their catalog.
  • Is it time bound? If the show runs in seasons like a normal television series, then each season is a project.

Is it feasible?

So now that we know we have a project on our hands, it’s time to dive deeper. The next question we should ask ourselves is: Is it feasible? A good idea should never be thrown out, but that doesn’t mean it’s something we can accomplish today right now. We must ask ourselves, when beginning a project: Does this bring value to what we do? Do we have the resources (time, money, and people) to invest in this? Will we receive a greater return than our investment?

For our imaginary project, we’re going to say: Yes! The labor is free (it’s a group of friends all pitching in), most of the equipment is available, and the investment is accomplishing something they want to do so even in an intangible sense it’s worth their time. You should scrutinize your own projects with more thoroughness. For the sake of the article we are moving our project on. It’s perfectly acceptable to come to a negative conclusion at this point and end the project.

Who will be involved?

Assemble your team! It’s time to put out the Bat Signal, as it were. Take some time to assemble your major stakeholders, identify your Product Owner, and arrange for a sit-down. It’s ok if you don’t have the entire time just yet. You can add to your roster of dramatis personae later. The important aspect of this phase is to have a voice of your customer – the Product Owner – and any key stakeholders to provide input.

In our example project, we’re going to use Scrum for keeping our team on track. If you’ve never used Scrum, now might be a good time to look at how a Scrum Master is not a Project Manager. The informal style of Scrum and rapid release development works well for our scenario, and using a more coaching methodology than straight up functional management seems to fit our group of friends trying to accomplish something together.

Keep in mind that our Product Owner is likely the collective group, which is generally a horrible way to come to consensus. So we’ll have work a little extra hard to ensure we have the vision properly defined.

What does success look like?

What does success look like? This is a question that can throw many veteran project team members for a loop. It’s not a question that most people are used to framing and articulating for others. When you’re working with requirements for a project, it’s important that everyone understands not just the requirements-as-written but the spirit of them as well. When we reach the end of the project, what should this look like?

One of my favorite features of Agile projects is this step. Sit around with your customer and Product Manager, pass out some index cards, and ask: What story do you want to tell? Have the participants write on their cards, “I want to….” And fill in whatever blanks they want for this project. Give them all the cards they need to hash out their requirements. If a statement is too vast, it’s an epic and you break it down into component stories. At the end, collect all the cards and follow up the meeting with their requirements now captured.

In our example project, we might have received cards like these:
I want to tell a story about how a group of five adventurers met in a tavern and went on their first quest together.

  • I want to tell a story about an exiled prince looking for revenge.
  • I want to showcase romance found amidst hard-won battles.
  • I want to have a character arc that ends in failure and ruin.
  • I want to have a successful Twitch stream that gets picked up by a sponsor so we can have a lucrative career and quit our boring day jobs.

As you can quickly see, some of these are taller orders to fulfill than others. In our next series, we’ll break down these requirements and look at them in terms of sprints.

Results of the Retrospective

Last week I promised to post a survey to allow people input on the process of this blog feature series. This week, I’m changing that direction based on the activity we had for the last survey. Instead, I invite you to comment and let me know what you want to do. How would you approach the situation? Which of the requirements do you want to tackle in the first sprint?

Shifting Directions

Shifting Directions

The Deck of Dread

The Deck of Dread