27 Aug

Client: Neil, we need to speed up delivery. How should we do this?

Me: Cut your backlog in half.

Client: What? Heresy! No, seriously?

Me: Cut your backlog in half.

Client: But.. we need to deliver all 50 of those things.

Me: Sure, that’s OK. Let’s pick the first 25 to get done and archive the rest until we need them.

Scenario 1

Client: But… item 1 needs item 26. Item 2 needs item 27. They’re all interdependent! Like I said, we need all 50!

Me: OK, why have you put them in a backlog then? Why not just work from the project plan?

Client: Because… we’re agile!

Me: OK. Do you want my help or not?

Client: Yes!

Me: OK, let’s look at one of these items and see how we can turn it into an independently useful/valuable deliverable.

[slicing ensues around a whiteboard]

Client: Cool, but we still need the other stuff.

Me: But do you see that thinking about and describing the work differently, we have created OPTIONS. Options, unlike tasks in a WBS, can be prioritised, deferred and rejected. This creates flexibility in your approach, and enables you to find FASTER ways to deliver something useful/valuable which fits the essence of the overall objective. Thus if you reach the deadline and don’t have everything you thought you needed, you at least have delivered lots of useful stuff.

Scenario 2

ClientBut when we've delivered those 25 we're still going to need the other 25. 

Me: Cool, so when that happens, let's look at the other 25 and anything new which has emerged in the meantime, and pick the next 25. 

Client: We'll still need those other 25, so why archive them? 

Me: So we focus on completing the first 25 rather than half completing 50 things and completing nothing. This reduces risk. 

Client: OK.

Me: You see, sequencing and limiting work in this way forces us to prioritise/order work more frequently, which forces us to confront whether we're working on the right things - things which provide most use for our customers and impact for our business. It's not about saying "no" to things - it's simply about sequencing and limiting current activity to provide focus on value and getting things done. 

Client: Makes sense, cheers! 

Me: No worries, it's what I do!

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