In part one of my blog series, I talked about why execution is the key to success. In this conclusion, I am going to discuss how to ultimately succeed by focusing on execution in relation to a plan. Let's jump right in!
Follow these guidelines to laser focus on execution:
- Create a flexible, living plan with these guidelines
- Vary the detail level of the steps in your plan. Make steps earlier in the plan more detailed, while making steps later in the plan more high level.
- that will change. The commitment you do make is to the present program increments.
- Realize that the plan will become out of date quickly. Discuss and update it periodically (perhaps every sprint, every program increment, or somewhere in between).
- Put care into creating the plan, but don’t waste too much effort making it perfect as after its initial creation it will change as execution ensues.
- Focus on executing to get real working software created completely rather than placing continued emphasis on the state of the plan.
- We have all been in situations where we have to note percentage complete for a task or a plan. Often the percentages given are arbitrary. With working software as your artifact, however, there is nothing arbitrary. The software either works, and works entirely, or it does not work completely.
- Spend the bulk of your energy on execution. In other words, after selecting WHAT to work on, focus on HOW to complete it.
- Discuss and update the plan you created in the first step with these guidelines.
- Mark work that is done as being done, and also update additional commitments based on what you have learned in completing the DONE work.
- Follow the steps under the first bullet for the items in the plan that are not yet complete.
- Don’t spend too much energy on updating the plan too far out into the future.
The Cone of Uncertainty and project planning
Have you ever seen the “cone of uncertainty”? It looks like this:1
What the cone of uncertainty shows is that until something is DONE, you do not know with 100% certainty when it will be completed. As you go through the process, you learn more and can come closer to reliably predicting a done time. But until it happens, you do not know with 100% certainty. You will see in the representation of the cone of uncertainty above, the margin of error can be as much as 400% at the inception of a project! Certainly, when you are far to the left in the cone, you do not want to make too much in the way of long-term COMMITMENTS before you first learn more.
In conclusion I challenge you to spend more energy and put more investment in EXECUTION of your plan. Use your plan as a tool to support your execution, but be sure you have a feedback loop coming back into that plan. If you like my bullets and want to follow them, do the first and last step efficiently while spending most of your time on the second: execution! You will find when you do this that you will be done with activities before you know it, and shifting the focus to execution will pay off in the form of plans being less at the forefront of attention anyway.