When the destination is clear, we don’t mind the bumps on the road.
Despite what many people might think, I believe software is a living breathing thing, more than that, it is organic.
We all know, estimates in software development are a hot topic. But, as Product Owners, trying to control time in a project is like being the captain of a ship and trying to control the sea.
But time is a resource, and if I ask for a pizza, I better know when will it arrive, so that I can figure out how I will negotiate with my aching-rumbling belly, right? Management is built with plans, and at many times plans are a way to control uncertainty, grasp the intangible nature of projects, minimize risks, and of course, make the best use of resources. And as I said, time is a resource — more than that, a very scarce one.
But what I mean about time management as a hot topic could be summarized with a road trip metaphor. The only people that keep asking how long will it take throughout the trip are the kids, right?
We all know that maybe there will be traffic, or an accident that blocks the road, maybe it will rain, it will snow, maybe there’s a tornado, maybe there’s a tsunami. Maybe someone will have to pee, maybe we will run out of gas, maybe someone will need some snacks and water, and, because of that, maybe someone will have to pee again (if my younger sister reads this, she will know who am I talking about ). These “maybes” are all part of a car trip with your family. But since we know that we are going in the correct direction it is up to the road to do its work, right?
What I mean is, once people can see the destination, they don’t mind the bumps on the road. They might need to check the map, they might need to make sure we are on track, but they will be ok with time uncertainty. Product Owners travel through much more uncertainty than a road trip and we are the ones with the roadmap, we are the ones that are responsible for scoping and discovering the next checkpoint, and the next, and the next.
Once again: People are only able to embrace the risks of uncertainty when they can clearly see the destination, not the road. Stakeholders are much more comprehensive than we expect, once they know the scope and what are the priorities. They will only be open to understanding the challenges and unknown risks once they can see the map.
As a Product Owner, when I sense time is being an issue with stakeholders, I always welcome it as a hint to make the scope as clear as possible and open the project to prioritization. Once I started doing this, it brought a collective aspect to decisions, a sense of belonging, and a team feeling. Also, the need for control that managers and stakeholders are often accused to have, goes from boiling to simmer.