We’ve sunk to a new low

As I write this post, I am still under the shock.

In French, we have sayings that go like this (I’m sure they translate well in English): “we had reached to bottom of the pool… and we have started digging”, or “we used to be facing a cliff, but we have made a great step forward”, or “we were reaching a wall, but we are gaining speed now”.

On our project, in the past months, it became more and more obvious that things were not going right. Basically, we were missing the iterations’ targets by 10-20% each time, despite aggressively recruiting, and no signs of recovery. Relations with the customers were ok (sort of) until the end of the last iteration, when we had to admit that we were falling short (it was also the case for the other iterations, but this time we did not find any good excuses).

So, naturely, a lot more pressure was put on us for this iteration. 3 or 4 new guys joined the project, to a total of 21 (onshore and offshore combined). Widly optimistic assumptions were made in order to reach an scope acceptable to the customer (new joinees up-to-speed from day 1, Team working 6 days a week, mainframe computers available at all times, though it has been made clear that there was a high probability of them been offline for a entire week).

And, just yesterday, the offshore manager dropped a bombshell. “Why are you keeping the Save feature in the scope? we did put it in the iteration plan.”
What do you mean it is not part of the plan? it *is* the plan, or close to it! It’s the main feature that we want to work on! It is exactly the reason why the Delete feature was forced into the scope! It is at least HALF of the total iteration effort!

What on earth happened?

Well, the dear man simply never said that they would not implement it. For weeks, we sent him our view of the scope that included the Save feature, and he happily responded with a plan that did not include it. And nobody even noticed until now. (note: do not tell us that we were not following the Scrum process; we know that)

So, the estimations that I thought were ridiculously optimistic did not, in fact, even touch the surface of the iteration scope.
A scope that we had, of course, already communicated to the customer.

This morning, a status meeting with our CEO is taking place. I can only guess at the name-calling, finger-pointing and the scape-goat searching that took place.

Thank god I am not a manager.

Could we have done better if we had been religiously following the Scrum process from the beginning? I believe so, yes. That said, the larger issue here is that, on a fixed-price, fixed-date, fixed-scope project, the probability to reach the goal is small. And I don’t see how Scrum would have helped making that clearer than the way we did it. Even if it would, I suspect that someone would have done his best to hide it to the customer anyway.

About Eric Lefevre-Ardant

Independent technical consultant.
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