Scope Creep and Tough Stakeholders!

In the current release plan of 3 months, team was tasked to deliver two major pieces of work. Weeks into planning, no clear specification and sponsors adding more changes and work!! Well isn't this something we all encounter, if not every time but quiet often. As a quote goes, " Change is inevitable, Change is constant"

Agile gained its popularity, with conviction that requirements evolve with project and early documentation of complete requirement is waste of time. And hence this planning and management needs flexible approach where volatility is a key. Change is viewed as reality. But key point to understand here is that though Agile provides a platform and consideration towards changing requirements but will not mean that for Fixed Date projects, you as team can absorb unlimited change and still deliver on the said date. Rather it provides a way to evaluate new/changed requirements v/s existing requirements and then prioritise them to deliver high priority ones. But this may also cause some disruption, stress and anxiety over project stakeholders. And stakeholder anxiety comes from mismanagement. Let's look at ways to manage requirements and then multiple stakeholders. Re-prioritise Regularly - Doing re-prioritisation with stakeholders, BAs and POs helps identify desired MVP. Stakeholders are responsible for sharing business priority and team is responsible to help understand technical dependencies and provide estimates.New features should be vetted against current features to see what can be pushed for phase two, especially when there are deadlines. Once these changes have been agreed upon, it is very important to make sure all teams understand the new direction the product owner has committed to. Tip is "Don't rush to add new requirement as immediate work, add in backlog and prioritise" Visibility - Create a Developer Board, which shows current requirements being worked by developers. Also it is great to use WBS and define tasks to achieve the current work with estimates. This helps everyone have the visibility of current team bandwidth and sets right expectations. Engage Everyone - Though customer engagement and approvals is something everyone focuses on and keeps them "Happy" but don't ignore teams too. Their approval and "Yes" is needed as they are the real fighters who will implement those features and win battle for you, and it is important to listen from them. Understand technical dependencies, challenges and timelines from them. Don't commit anything on their behalf. Governance - Tracking of issues, dependencies, risks is very important. Their must be a mitigation plan for same, and after planning action items need closure. Resolution delays can derail your project. Keep and Open eye and open communication with all involved Communicate Communicate and Communicate - Keep everyone informed. Communication like - What have you done since the last scrum? What will you do between now and the next scrum? What got in your way of doing work is very important Retrospect - Successful change can not be implemented with improvements in process. It is important to look back when one phase ends, time is needed to reflect on what went well and why, and what didn’t, prior to moving ahead. This continuous learning cycle helps to refine the process and contributes to future success. Now for above mentioned points to be successfully implemented, it is very important that your customers are aligned to it and you have their complete support. Let's look at few points to keep our stakeholders happy and involved - Have customer buy in. What ever process you choose to follow in your project, don't start without customer/stakeholder alignment. They need to understand the process, demands and expectations. There may be situation where you might not get complete buy in, so don't PANIC! Start with what is easy and proceed step by step. Don't follow Big Bang Approach. Value stakeholder rights - Customers have right to choose which requirement takes priority, the right to get the most value out of every development day, and the right to cancel the project at anytime and be left with a working system that's better than when they started. Respect that! Communication is key to lot of things. Be available and respond to queries actively. Give them the comfort that you know what you are doing. If you fail here, you fail to build trust and gain respect There are times when certain stakeholders are tough, too demanding and might cause few delays. With these customers, identify the root cause and work on it. Take his continuous feedback, though slow but you will gain trust. Give them visibility of work achieved, impediments and dependencies. Keep them involved and be transparent. Hidden and close conversations kill relations!! Facing Challenges is part of any project. Don't postpone these conversations. Deal it now! and be direct - Simple These are the few approaches I have found useful to manage both scope creep and tough stakeholders.These tips should prevent project execution to haunt you and derailing from main agenda. Obviously, these might not all fit as in for your projects, just evaluate and pick the ones which are fit for purpose.

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