05 February 2010

Real Artists Ship

I had the opportunity to sit down with the inimitable Dr. Alex Laufer for lunch yesterday, and while there were many insights & take-aways from our discussion, one in particular sort of jumps out at me:

It's all about delivering the product.

That concept is one of the subtexts & supertexts (is that a word?) of this whole Rogue Project Leader / FIST idea. But perhaps it hasn't been as front-and-center as it should be. I am coming to think that I haven't made this as explicitly prominent in my words as it is in my head. I'm gonna fix that.

See, we do projects in order to deliver operational systems - not just to make a cool design, an interesting briefing or to exhibit process compliance. This is one of the reasons I hate the process-centric mentality. It takes the focus off the product. And the product is the whole point of the work. We get so wrapped up in improving the process, it's easy to forget we're supposed to be improving the outcome. And then we take comfort in compliance, rather than in what actually gets delivered.

Thus, in the FIST Manifesto (which I'll post here on Monday), there's a key line which states "Delivering useful capabilities is the only measure of success." In the booklet form of the Manifesto, that line has its very own page, in large font.

I'm going to try to make sure I say this more frequently on this blog, so before I wrap up for now, let me say it one more time: Delivering useful capabilities is the only measure of success.


Dan Taylor said...

Dan -- I appreciate the post. I've been struggling with how to make FISTy principles work on a major system acquisition in DHS / DoD. You're right, it's all about delivering the product, but it's hard to maintain that focus when the length of time and amount of process in a major acquisition can be so long.

Just yesterday I watched Seth Godin's talk "Quieting the Lizard Brain" talk at http://vimeo.com/5895898 talk and it occurred to me that as a focusing strategy, I can think of the big chunks of the acquisition as products I need to ship. I've labeled the key "ship dates" so I can think of things like a milestone decision brief, a completed solicitation, and an awarded prime contract as things the project office has to SHIP. We have to SHIP those products to ultimately deliver a system. By viewing the dates as hard ship dates, we're more likely to get them done and out the door and not get bogged down in striving for the perfect PowerPoint or perfect plan.
Best, Dan

The Dan Ward said...

Thanks so much, Dan! Great idea about treating blocks as shippable products.

I see a strong correlation between this and the Agile approach of iterative deliveries. That's no coincidence, of course, because Agile was a huge influence on the FIST concept.

Looking forward to continuing the conversation!

Glen B. Alleman said...

In order to cause those capabilities to appear, I'd conjecture there are three (four actually) other processes


The Dan Ward said...

@Glen - LOL! You crack me up!