Friday Sep 28, 2012

Iterative and Incremental Principle Series 5: Conclusion

Thank you for joining me in the final segment in the Iterative and Incremental series.  During yesterday’s segment, I discussed Iteration Planning, and specifically how I planned my daily exercise (iteration) each morning by assessing multiple factors, while following my overall Implementation plan.

As I mentioned in yesterday’s blog, regardless of the type of exercise or how many increment sets I decide to complete each day, I apply the 6 minute interval sets and a timebox approach.  When the 6 minutes are up, I stop the interval, even if I have more to give, saving the extra energy to apply to my next interval set.  

Timeboxes are used to manage iterations.  Once the pre-determined iteration duration is reached – whether it is 2 weeks or 6 weeks or somewhere in between-- the iteration is complete.  Iteration group items (requirements) not fully addressed, in relation to the iteration goal, are addressed in the next iteration.  This approach helps eliminate the “rolling deadline” and better allows the project manager to assess the project progress earlier and more frequently than in traditional approaches.

Not only do smaller, more frequent milestones allow project managers to better assess potential schedule risks and slips, but process improvement is encouraged.  Even in my simple example, I learned, after a few interval sets, not to sprint uphill!  Now I plan my route more efficiently to ensure that I sprint on a level surface to reduce of the risk of not completing my increment. 

Project managers have often told me that they used an iterative and incremental approach long before OUM.   An effective project manager naturally organizes project work consistent with this principle, but a key benefit of OUM is that it formalizes this approach so it happens by design rather than by chance.   

I hope this series has encouraged you to think about additional ways you can incorporate the iterative and incremental principle into your daily and project life.  I further hope that you will share your thoughts and experiences with the rest of us.

Thursday Sep 27, 2012

Iterative and Incremental Principle Series 4: Iteration Planning – (a.k.a What should I do today?)

Welcome back to the fourth of a five part series on applying the Iteration and Incremental principle.  During the last segment, we discussed how the Implementation Plan includes the number of the iterations for a project, but not the specifics about what will occur during each iteration.  Today, we will explore Iteration Planning and discuss how and when to plan your iterations.

As mentioned yesterday, OUM prescribes initially planning your project approach at a high level by creating an Implementation Plan.  As the project moves through the lifecycle, the plan is progressively refined.  Specifically, the details of each iteration is planned prior to the iteration start.

The Iteration Plan starts by identifying the iteration goal.  An example of an iteration goal during the OUM Elaboration Phase may be to complete the RD.140.2 Create Requirements Specification for a specific set of requirements.  Another project may determine that their iteration goal is to focus on a smaller set of requirements, but to complete both the RD.140.2 Create Requirements Specification and the AN.100.1 Prepare Analysis Specification. 

In an OUM project, the Iteration Plan needs to identify both the iteration goal – how far along the implementation lifecycle you plan to be, and the scope of work for the iteration.  Since each iteration typically ranges from 2 weeks to 6 weeks, it is important to identify a scope of work that is achievable, yet challenging, given the iteration goal and timeframe. 

OUM provides specific guidelines and techniques to help prioritize the scope of work based on criteria such as risk, complexity, customer priority and dependency.  In OUM, this prioritization helps focus early iterations on the high risk, architecturally significant items helping to mitigate overall project risk. 

Central to the prioritization is the MoSCoW (Must Have, Should Have, Could Have, and Won’t Have) list.   The result of the MoSCoW prioritization is an Iteration Group.  This is a scope of work to be worked on as a group during one or more iterations. 

As I mentioned during yesterday’s blog, it is pointless to plan my daily exercise in advance since several factors, including the weather, influence what exercise I perform each day.  Therefore, every morning I perform Iteration Planning.   My “Iteration Plan” includes the type of exercise for the day (run, bike, elliptical), whether I will exercise outside or at the gym, and how many interval sets I plan to complete.   

I use several factors to prioritize the type of exercise that I perform each day.  Since running outside is my highest priority, I try to complete it early in the week to minimize the risk of not meeting my overall goal of doing it twice each week.  Regardless of the specific exercise I select, I follow the guidelines in my Implementation Plan by applying the 6-minute interval sets.  Just as in OUM, the iteration goal should be in context of the overall Implementation Plan, and the iteration goal should move the project closer to achieving the phase milestone goals.

Having an Implementation Plan details the strategy of what I plan to do and keeps me on track, while the Iteration Plan affords me the flexibility to juggle what I do each day based on external influences thus maximizing my overall success.

Tomorrow I’ll conclude the series on applying the Iterative and Incremental approach by discussing how to manage the iteration duration and highlighting some benefits of applying this principle.

Wednesday Sep 26, 2012

Iterative and Incremental Principle Series 3: The Implementation Plan (a.k.a The Fitness Plan)

Welcome back to the Iterative and Incremental Blog series.  Yesterday, I demonstrated how shorter interval sets allowed me to focus on my fitness goals and achieve success.  Likewise, in a project setting, shorter milestones allow the project team to maintain focus and experience a sense of accomplishment throughout the project lifecycle.  Today, I will discuss project planning and how to effectively plan your iterations.

Admittedly, there is more to applying the iterative and incremental principle than breaking long durations into multiple, shorter ones.  In order to effectively apply the iterative and incremental approach, one should start by creating an implementation plan.  

In a project setting, the Implementation Plan is a high level plan that focuses on milestones, objectives, and the number of iterations.  It is the plan that is typically developed at the start of an engagement identifying the project phases and milestones. 

When the iterative and incremental principle is applied, the Implementation Plan also identified the number of iterations planned for each phase.  The implementation plan does not include the detailed plan for the iterations, as this detail is determined prior to each iteration start during Iteration Planning.  An individual iteration plan is created for each project iteration.

For my fitness regime, I also created an “Implementation Plan” for my weekly exercise.   My high level plan included exercising 6 days a week, and since I cross train, trying not to repeat the same exercise two days in a row.  Because running on the hills outside is the most difficult and consequently, the most effective exercise, my implementation plan includes running outside at least 2 times a week.   Regardless of the exercise selected, I always apply a series of 6-minute interval sets.

 I never plan what I will do each day in advance because there are too many changing factors that need to be considered before that level of detail is determined.  If my Implementation Plan included details on the exercise I was to perform each day of the week, it is quite certain that I would be unable to follow my plan to that level.  It is unrealistic to plan each day of the week without considering the unique circumstances at that time.  For example, what is the weather?  Are there are conflicting schedule commitments?  Are there injuries that need to be considered?  Likewise, in a project setting, it is best to plan for the iteration details prior to its start.

Join me for tomorrow’s blog where I will discuss when and how to plan the details of your iterations.

Tuesday Sep 25, 2012

Iterative and Incremental Principle Series 2: Finding Focus

Welcome back to the second blog in a five part series where I recount my personal experience with applying the Iterative and Incremental principle to my daily life.  As you recall from part one of the series, a conversation with my son prompted me to think about practical applications of the Iterative and Incremental approach and I realized I had incorporated this principle in my exercise regime.   

I have been a runner since college but about a year ago, I sustained an injury that prevented me from exercising.  When I was sufficiently healed, I decided to pick it up again.  Knowing it was unrealistic to pick up where I left off, I set a goal of running 3 miles or approximately for 30 minutes.    I was excited to get back into running and determined to meet my goal.  Unfortunately, after what felt like a lifetime, I looked at my watch and realized that I had 27 agonizing minutes to go!  My determination waned and my positive “I can do it” attitude was overridden by thoughts of “This is impossible”.   My initial focus and excitement was not sustained so I never met my goal.  

Understanding that the 30 minute run was simply too much for me mentally, I changed my approach.   I decided to try interval training.  For each interval, I planned to walk for 3 minutes, then jog for 2 minutes, and finally sprint for 1 minute, and I planned to repeat this pattern 5 times.  I found that each interval set was challenging, yet achievable, leaving me excited and invigorated for my next interval.  I easily completed five intervals – or 30 minutes!!  My sense of accomplishment soared.

What does this have to do with OUM?  Have you heard the saying -- “How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time!”?  This adage certainly applies in my example and in an OUM systems implementation.  It is easier to manage, track progress and maintain team focus for weeks at a time, rather than for months at a time.   With shorter milestones, the project team focuses on the iteration goal.  Once the iteration goal is met, a sense of accomplishment is experience and the team can be re-focused on a fresh, yet achievable new challenge. 

Join me tomorrow as I expand the concept of Iterative and incremental by taking a step back to explore the recommended approach for planning your iterations.

Monday Sep 24, 2012

Iterative and Incremental Principle Series 1: The Dreaded Assignment

A few days ago, while making breakfast for my teenage son… he turned to me and happily exclaimed, “I really like how my high school Government class assigns our reading homework.  In middle school, we had to read a chapter each week.  Everyone dreaded it.  In high school, our teacher assigns us a section or two every day.  We still end up reading a chapter each week, but this way is so much easier and I’m actually remembered what I’ve read!”

Wow!  Once I recovered from my initial shock that my high school son actually initiated conversation with me, it struck me that he was describing one of the five basic OUM principles -- Iterative and Incremental.   Not only did he describe how his teacher divided a week long assignment into daily increments, but he went on to communicate some of the major benefits of having shorter, more achievable milestones. 

I started to think about other applications of the iterative and incremental approach and I realized that I had incorporated this approach when I recently rededicated myself to physical fitness.  Join me over the next four days as I present an Iterative and Incremental blog series where I relate my personal experience incorporating the iterative and incremental approach and the benefits that I achieved.

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