The Right Level of Detail In Project Planning
Post # 63 - As a TPM, you must consider the scale and complexity of the project to determine the level planning detail required. Stop focusing or worrying about the whether its agile or waterfall.
You been assigned as a TPM to a project. You will be taking the project from inception to release, numerous people are involved, everyone is hyped and don’t forget that ambitious timeline. Lets get this project started.
You know that a project planning document will help you get and keep everyone aligned. However, what is the right level of documentation?
I have three Teams for you with three different project planning approaches.
Team A crafts a detailed planning document (think: a 6-pager) which includes but not limited to:
Project Goal and Vision
Implementation Details (High-level diagrams, state flows, etc)
Stakeholders (implementation and dependency teams)
Schedule and Important Dates
Risk, Concerns, Open Questions
Appendix → may include market, competitive, high-level diagrams, charts etc.
Team B on the other hand writes a simple one-pager with:
Project Vision Statement
In Scope (simple bullets, not user stories)
Out of Scope (simple bullets, not user stories)
Important Dates and Milestones
Risks, Concerns, Open Questions
Team C knows what they want to achieve and when they want to achieve it by, but they prioritize rapid prototyping, discussion, and implementation over creating detailed documents and schedules.
Team A’s detailed document will ensure all stakeholders understand project expectations, limit the potential for misunderstandings and miscommunication. Additionally, an implementation schedule with milestones and dates allows the leadership team or project sponsors to make well-informed decisions regarding trade-offs, risk, and scope before project kick-off.
Team C focuses on working code and tighter feedback loop to make better decisions faster, leading to less overhead and faster implementation.
Team B is the ideal balance between detail and simplicity. The scope of the program, the teams implementing it, and the stakeholders involved, all is clearly defined. This will ensure that everyone remains informed and aligned without overextending the team and requiring process overhead.
Current conventional software planning wisdom will tell you to sort these three teams and their approach to project planning through the myopic lens of “is it agile or waterfall?” I know you are already thinking “man, team A is so waterfall and Team C is definitely keeping it agile”.
The reality is always a lot more nuanced. If you put down the agile or not agile lens, you might see that:
Team A maybe kicking off a complex and multi-faceted project with numerous stakeholders and moving parts. It could be a 0 to 1 project, a GDPR compliance project, a whole new e-commerce strategy.
Team B is kicking off a minor revision, an upgrade to an existing mobile app, a new feature, a revamping of the encryption subsystem, or 1 to n project.
Team C is running experiments, exploring new technology, focused on skunkworks, a proof of concept, or addressing tech debt/bug fixing.
🤔 As a TPM, you must consider the scale and complexity of the project to determine the level planning detail required. Stop focusing or worrying about the definitions of agile and waterfall or what is and isn’t agile.
There is a time for planning in detail, then there is a time you just buck the docs, write tickets, focus on code and sometimes all you need is a bunch of bullets on a single page.
👉🏽 If you ever find your self stuck on what is the right level of planning detail, I always recommend to take the Team B approach. Just start listing out what is in scope and out of scope for the project. This will immediately highlight gaps in the alignment between stakeholders that you can then start to address.
Until next time 👋!
📅 Becoming A Great Technical Program Manager (1-day cohort coming soon)
Over the past few months, I have been taking the time to chat with many of you over email or zoom. Many of my readers are either playing the TPM role or are seeking knowledge to help them level up their TPM skills. Some are curious about this unique role and what it takes to jump into this career.
I have been wondering if I can do something that will help you become a great TPM or take your TPM skills to the next level. Then, an idea hit me…
I am considering offering an intensive day long seminar on “Becoming A Great Technical Program Manager”.
Who is this course for?
This is ideally for people already in the TPM role (all levels of experience) looking to take their career to the next level.
This is also a great opportunity for Engineering Leaders, Product Managers, and many more who want to level up their technical program management skill sets to become a well rounded leader.
What will you teach?
Goal for the seminar is to share everything I know on how to go from good to great:
Learn from hard-earned lessons and mistakes I made.
Leverage true-and-tried frameworks that I use everyday.
Real world tested strategies that will make you stand out as a TPM.
The course will be split into 4 parts:
🚀 Before — everything to do to make sure you program kick off is a success.
⚙️ During — how to be an effective TPM when a program is going through development.
✅ After — you did it; you successful shipped a product. learn everything you need to do before the next program kicks off.
🧐 Everything In Between — the stuff that no one talks about how to cope with the pressure of being a leader without authority, mental models that will help you be great, wisdom from legendary TPMs I worked with at Apple, Google, Nike, Blackberry.
Additional course details I am currently exploring
Schedule → May 2023
Date & Time → Weekend (either Saturday or Sunday)
Time Commitment → 4 hours PST (not finalized hoping to find a good balance for EST and CET and Europe friendly timing). I highly recommend that you consider clearing your calendar to make this experience be effective.
Pricing → $500 (Not Finalized Yet) //
💰 Best Part → You can potentially get reimbursed for the course fee through your employer.
Class Size → I will limit this to just 10 people for this 1st cohort to ensure a lively and amazing experience.
Location → Live over Zoom
Platform → Maven
If you are interested in attending this course, please click on the button below to show your interest. 🙇 🙏
If you know someone who might be interested in attending this course, please share this post with them. 🙇 🙏
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