When schemes are laid in advance, it is surprising how often the circumstances fit in with them — Sir William Osler
The notion of emergent anything without some understanding of what done looks likes lays the groundwork for spending without a goal. Defining the Needed Capabilities of the project upfront,sets the bounds for recognizing the attributes of done when it arrives.
Here's how to elicit, identify, assemble, and assess the needed capabilities before any project work starts.
- Customer needs - what is needed for customer success. These are not the technical requirements. These are the capability to do something. If the customer doesn't know what he wants to do then the project is unlikely to be successful.
- Priorities - put these needs in some order of importance.
- Scenarios - make some scenarios for each needed capability. Test out the scenario to see if it produces the expected outcome.
- Partition the capabilities - make some separation of the capabilities into classes. Do some architectural work. Making a big pile of capabilities, like making a big pile of anything, results in a big pile. The Greeks knew this in Ovid Pile a little on a little and get a big pile.
- Look ahead into the future environment so you're not defining capabilities that now one will want of you've missed a needed capability because you weren't looking for it.
- Assemble all this stuff and do some assessment. Set some goals. Define what done looks like. The whole notion of letting things emergeis just fine if the project is not that important.
- So some operational concepts work. What are you going to do with these capabilities when you get them? Pretend they are free and show up tomorrow. Now what? How are you going to Earn Value from them? Don't know, then why are you asking for them?
- Do your homework. Make assessment using the Concept of Operations. Test out the ideas in real problems.
- Look around for mismatches.
- Figure out how to close the mismatches.
- Determine the constraints. Money, time, people, technology.
- Ask again about the priorities. Is it really important that the system do this? Determine the answer through an assessment of the beneficial outcomes.
- Now looks at the investment process. The Return on Investment. The Effectiveness of the Capability to providing value.
- Build the plan to make all this happen.
Notice a few critical things
- Emergence is wonderful once you have some notion of what done looks like. Otherwise you're just wandering around looking for interesting things to do. Have a goal. Lots of ways to reach the goal. Start with the end in mind is the Covey guidance. If you don't know what done looks like, someone should. Otherwise you'll be done when you run out of money and time, and that might not be acceptable to those paying the bills.
- Test the need for the capability all the time. Make sure the capability actually provides value. This is called Measure of Effectiveness. Keep asking that question everytime something is delievred.
- Know how much you are willing to spend to receive the capability.
- Know how much it will cost to receive the capability. Yes this means making an estimate. But the estimate must have a confidence level, so don't get all spun up and start quoting Dilbert's stupid boss. Earn your keep, be a contributor to success and come up with an upper and lower bound for the work and give confidence levels for those bounds.
- Know what the capability is worth to you after spending money to receive it.
Don't know how much it will cost? Don't know how much you are willing to spend? Don't start!