Not just planning, presentation too… and beyond

In the late eighties we were working on an enhanced version of the InstaPlan, a project management software for IBM PC Compatibles. Those were the days before the advent of email, the Product Manager was located in the US and the development team in India. We used to courier the software on floppies/3.5” diskettes, as CDs were still not introduced for the PC.  You may be wondering what has this got to do with planning and presentation…

The Product Manager after receiving the software, would install and test it and report the defects and changes to the team in India using fax. We would look at the list of items, prioritize them, make the required changes in the software and then send an updated version. We would have phone conversations to co-ordinate the work as well as better understand the issues. Still not talked about planning and presentation…

After a few cycles me and one of my team members went to the US to make the final set of changes and release the software. The Product Manager was quite upset after he installed and tested the latest version, we were surprised as we thought we had done a good job of fixing all the issues. After review and discussions, we realized that we had fixed all the issues related to planning in the software, but many bugs on the printing side remained open. Somehow, the development team in India paid less attention to them, in spite of the Product Manager reminding us about them in the phone conversations. He expected that we would have made the changes in the final version that we carried with us.

The Product Manager conveyed the message dramatically. He walked over to the display area at the front desk and brought the box used to ship the software and the user manual, dumped them with a thud on the table. He pointed to the box, it said InstaPlan – A Planning and Presentation Software. Then he waved the user manual at us and pointed to the labels on the diskettes, all said the same. We had not paid much attention to the presentation part. It was an eye-opener for us – what use is the information, if it is not available to the those who need it. After that we worked hard on resolving the issues on the printing side.

This had a great impact on me, made me realize the importance of communication in project management and changed the way I would work as a project manager. Focussing on this aspect made me realize that presentation alone doesn’t suffice at times and one has to ensure that the information is received by the person who needs to act on it. Presentation is but the first step in this process.

After that it was my constant endeavour to ensure that the information required is generated and presented first and then ensure that it is received by the person who needs to act on it. This has a positive impact on the way I managed a project. I continuously improved on how I collect information on the project progress, process it and communicate it back to all.

Over a course of time made many changes to how we did the status meetings and conduct the project reviews. Then one fine day I learnt about Agile Scrum and found that many of the changes that we had done are already part of the Agile Scrum.

Agile Scrum addresses this aspect in a very effective way and takes it to the next level. The practices of Agile Scrum ensure that the progress information is current and is visible to all.  It is presented in such a way, that everyone can comprehend and act on it. One of the three pillars of Scrum is Transparency and that is taking it to the next level- I was an Insta Convert to Agile Scrum practices.

Hope you enjoyed reading the above, I am sure that many of you would have had experiences of changes you did to improve project deliveries in the past, being in some way part of the Agile Scrum practices. Do share them with us.

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