Dimensional reduction attack – Transparency

Preface

We human live in a 3 dimensional world, while ants’ world only has 2 dimensions. Even ants crawling on the wall, they think they are walking on the ground. If someone takes up an ant from the wall, the other ants will be shocked, they believe their god make this ant disappear in a second.

 

This is a famous Chinese science fiction <The Three-Body Problem>. That also my first time to know how dreadful “dimensional reduction attack” is.

 

If something you cannot understand, that may because you have one dimension lost. Just like agile project management, you are confused because you don’t get the detail information.

 

In the series of “dimensional reduction attack” articles, I’ll explain the three pillars of Scrum Project Development/Management:

  • Transparency;
  • Inspection;
  • Adaptation;

 

Transparency

 

Transparency is the first policy of Scrum. We got a lot of painful lessons.

One of our project 2 years ago was to build a mobile platform. The client assigned framework and prototype tasks to another company, they came to us to “give the prototype life”. The client didn’t know much of development, they thought it will be very easy to bring the prototype to life. But in fact, we all know the most difficult part of the whole job is “go live”, just like give life to Frankenstein, that is difficult than join every part of the body.

 

At the beginning of every project, we will have an Inception phase(agile requirement collection process). Due to the client was in another city and they had a prototype, they must know well of their product. We decided to do Inception without the client involved.

 

As PM and ScrumMaster of the team, I take care about the communication with the customer. We had project meeting with the client twice a week. In the meeting, we aligned the vision, persona, user journey and gave a lot of good advice to the prototype. The team was excited and the client was happy to get the advice.

So far so good?  But thing went wrong when we showcase to the client after Inception.

The client was very angry about “waste” 2 weeks to “redo” what they have. All the discuss of vision, persona, etc, they deem the purpose was to develop.

Can you guess where is the problem?

We should let the client know what we will do during the following 2 weeks when project start. As well as explain the methodology of Inception and how important it is.

 

This was a lesson for not transparent with the client. The project team should keep transparency with the client about the goal, schedule, and every task. The other thing also very important is to keep transparency within the team. I used to coach a PM, he had no idea about the tasks plan, all tasks were planned by the main team member. But this team member had many tasks himself, so he had no time to plan. That means the team had no plan in advance, they decided the next day’s tasks at today.

The PM complained to me that requirements often changed. The plan was no use. But my opinion was:

  1. “Change comes fast” is not an excuse, it is exactly the reason of planning; Situation changes, so the plan changes to adopt, that is totally different with no plan at all.
  2. A team needs a 1-week plan at least. The whole team should know the goal of the next week and align with that, prepare for that.

 

Talking about “how to transparent”, let’s talk about lending money to someone.  Suppose you lend money to your friend, how do you avoid the risk of not returning?

  1. Sign a loan IOU
  2. Keep touch with the friend
  3. If he doesn’t want to return, talk with him
  4. Eventually, find a lawyer

 

As a PM, all technique above could be an example:

  1. Send email(or sign) memo or meeting minutes to the client;
  2. Keep touch with the client and track the condition of the team members
  3. If bad smell, talk to the client or the team member
  4. Eventually, print out all the plan, agreement, and post to the conspicuous place, near the project team.

How to Push

If you are a team leader or parent, do you have the experience of pushing your team member or kid to do a task?

In traditional Chinese culture, there is a proverb: “You can never wake up a person who pretends to sleep.”

The first thing, you should identify if it is an attitude problem. If so, stop teaching and mentoring right now and make your team member or kid calm down until he wants to continue to learn. I used to speak to my kid like this: “If you do not want to learn right now, you can do anything you want, but before midnight, you should finish everything. You have two choices now: continue learning or take a rest for 10 minutes.” Usually, she would take some rest and come to me and request to continue.

Another thing I would like to mention, it’s about criticism. If you find people are not doing well. There could be three reasons. They are concentric circles.

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The innermost circle is “belief”. People maybe have the distinct belief in you.

The middle circle is “Attitude”, as I said, it’s not that he doesn’t know how to do it well, it’s that he doesn’t want to do it.

The outer circle is “Action”, it’s what he did. It is an objective fact.

When talking about criticism, the rules are:

  • You cannot even touch anything of the belief;
  • You cannot criticize attitude, but you can draw their attention;
  • You can only criticize the action.

For an example. If one of your team members was late for the meeting. You’d better just tell him: you are late this time, don’t be late next time. If you wanted to judge his attitude, such as “you should rectify your working attitude.” Then you’re wrong.

Now, you may have a question: How can I push if I don’t criticize?

There is another proverb. “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather make them long for the endless immensity of the sea”.

How to push then?

In my opinion, first set a goal; Then let the whole team long for that goal; Next step decomposes the goal into some small tasks with the team. Making sure you know how to estimate every task and let the team know you know.

Then you will suddenly find that you don’t need to push anymore. The team will carry the ball and run with it well.