Ain't No Cure for the Summertime Blues
My daughter winds up her third grade career today as my wife ends another year of teaching high school. Stretched ahead of us is the vast unknown of unbounded imagination, family vacations, adventure-filled books, backyard discoveries, splash-filled swimming pool moments... and annoying mosquito bites, occasional sunburns and long-winded sibling spats (as long as we're being realistic about the next 10 weeks).
How often do we romanticize the projects ahead of us? After all, every new project yields so much potential for fun, excitement, and positive NPV that we can hardly contain ourselves, right? Some people look at new projects and see ponies and rainbows and butterflies and shooting stars (at least those where you let the marketing team pitch the project for you). Ask the IT staff about the same project and they will conjure up versions of hell that would make Dante shudder in fear. As with many projects, the truth lies somewhere in the middle.
Reconciling stakeholder expectations is a scary yet necessary undertaking. If you asked every member of your family to give you their version of the ideal summer vacation, I would venture a guess that you would wind up with wildly different answers (at least you would in my house). The project is the same (summer vacation) and the end expectations are the same (enjoyable relaxation and recreation). For me, that looks like cycling and hammock time. My wife has a strong desire to camp (yeah, outdoors... crazy, huh?) coupled with reading a mountain of books. My older daughter envisions swim lessons and camp (with cabins, only slightly more civilized) and trips to the grandparents for unbridled spoiling. My younger daughter is completely go-with-the-flow, as long as she is entertained. We all have the same goal (enjoyment), but our perceptions of the deliverable (outcome) and approach (requirements and tasks) differ.
In The Thinking PM blog, the nail is hit on the head: deal with the stakeholders early to define and set expectations. If I waited until August to ask everybody if the summer were successful, I'd be a really lousy husband and father. We're setting up the calendar of events early, so we all get a say in making summer successful. Of course, there are boundaries. There will be no jetting off to Europe, no horseback-riding lessons, no Harley-ridin' adrenaline-laden trips to Sturgis, and no Phineas-and-Ferb-esque antics. In setting expectations with stakeholders, it's equally important to mention what WON'T be in scope, as mentioned in the TAPUniversity blog post about scope.
My friend, Lyle Holman, a local consultant, shares with his colleagues his "Holman Expectation Curve" (pictured above). At the beginning of every project, fantasy is high and reality is low. The two curves eventually converge at what is called the OMG (Oh My God) moment, followed closely by the CTJ (Come To Jesus) meeting. The curve is inevitable; virtually every project experiences it. The real trick is to get your project stakeholders to the OMG moment as quickly as possible.
So school's out for the summer. Are you ready to make it an enjoyable experience for everybody?