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Where are you going?

Thank you Andrea from Sydney for this weeks #Minutewithmarcus as we talk about the value of roadmaps.

Andrea wrote to me asking “I’m struggling to get buy in for agile ways of working when my stakeholders feel like we are just constantly reactive and have no visibility of the when will we ever be done, They are even talking about going back to Microsoft project what can we do?”

Andrea’s question is a common one we’re often presented with when helping individuals, teams and organisations move to high performance. It’s hard to shake off those solid project plans we have all been used to. How good did it feel going through that planning process, adding the lines to the gang chart, locking it in and we’re away right? Unfortunately 100 years of conditioning has led us to often believe they will always be free from error, reality tells us something different as we enter a world of changes and re-baselining. In a complicated initiative the old schedule can work with good effect, but, in todays world of complexity where we do not know what is around the corner, schedules become challenging things.

Most teams I work with see the sudden release as we begin using adaptive planning to decide on a frequent basis what are the items of highest value and priority and work to deliver them in an iterative way. Unfortunately this can also be one of the most common challenges when working in this new way. Our stakeholders who are so used to seeing schedules with dates are left with a void. “I know they are working as I’m seeing things presented each week, I know I’m being consulted often for my input to their plan, but I’ll be darned if I know what I’m getting by Christmas Marcus” was what I heard from an operations manager recently.

So what do we do? We know the schedule approach is going to commit us to the unknown and continuing without a forward view reduces our stakeholder confidence.

One of my biggest discoveries as a product owner was the “Product Onion” by Roman Pichler for anyone who hasn’t seen this it’s a great visualisation I used to start any team or stakeholder conversation with. The onion highlights the levels of planning involved from big picture vision to daily stand up. It’s also a really good model for conversations around managing governance and risk and something we have adapted in various coaching scenarios.

The onion helps to bridge the conversation between strategic and tactical. If you’ve read any of my previous #minutewithmarcus you’ll know the importance we place on having a strong vision and you can read about our techniques in some of our other posts and the UVNO technique.

Assuming you have a strong vision we now work through a process of breaking that down. The key to success in the decomposition is to think outcomes not outputs. With this in mind and to place some finite focus on a vision I’ll often refer people to “what it might look like 3 years from now” This allows teams to be bold and open minded whilst holding a level of realism.

I really like the approach used in the #bvssh business agility fundamentals class as taking the 3 year vision and breaking it down to a one year. From here its logical to then look at a quarterly horizon. Now I know there are many variants when it comes to mid-term visions but there’s something so simple about working around a timeframe given to us when earth began. Quarters signal seasons, Quarters fit calendars and Quarters work with school terms and financial years so lets make it easy on ourselves. As a good team if you can describe three year outcomes, one year outcomes and 3 month outcomes you have a really solid conversational tool with your stakeholders without needing a 3,000 line Gantt chart

Working out outcomes does take some collaborative brainpower but is worth every moment in ensuring alignment between teams and stakeholders. From here you will need a way of visualising these, this is where the roadmap comes in.

The roadmap is probably one of my oldest friends, even in traditional project delivery roadmaps helped us during set up for success or health checks. I’ve used roadmap formats in 121 coaching through to organisational-wide change initiatives. They can be in digital format using tools such as JIRA or as simple as an image above or on a wall. Once you’ve mapped your outcomes to your roadmap you have all you need for a real conversation on what by when. Just always remember roadmaps work best with outcomes, not outputs and should always be viewed as emergent. Yes we know the destination but we can’t always predict the journey.

Hope that helps Andrea if you need further assistance or useful templates let me know,

If this #minutewithmarcus interested you and you have a hot question for us please feel free to contact us below.

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