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  • Writer's picturerahulmd

Plan Before You Start!

One of the most common issues teams face while developing products is that work takes way longer than they originally anticipated.

Why does this happen?

Because of a general sense of urgency that is encouraged in the corporate world, more often than not, teams are in a hurry to get started.

What exactly happens?

Teams have a general sense of what needs to be done, think it will take 2 weeks, and they get started. Once they get started, they uncover things which they hadn't anticipated. This results in more effort required to complete the work.

If this happens more than once for a particular feature, the team gets frustrated and start to lose motivation.

Then some higher priority item comes along and this gets put on the backburner at a "guesstimated" 80%. The same thing happens with the new feature as well. Before you know it you have a ton of things at 80%

A sensible approach

Over the years, I have seen this play out several times with several teams.

In 2015, I was introduced a technique we called "elaboration". As part of Elaboration, as a team - product manager, business stakeholders, technology teams, dev ops and all other relevant stakeholders - we get together to understand the work and plan out what is required to be done. All the way from the value proposition to go to market and tracking feedback.

The scope of this exercise is to ensure 3 things:

1. Get everyone was on the same page in terms of the goals of the initiative, success criteria

2. Align everyone on what was to be done - not just from a development perspective, but also from release perspective and go to market perspective

3. Identify the work involved and estimate it - we will discuss estimation issues in detail in one of the upcoming videos - do keep an eye out for that.

When you try to identify the work involved upfront, you are trying to uncover all areas, so as to try and minimize surprises.

A brilliant analogy is that of building a house on a piece of land. Before you start the construction, you would probably do a soil test to understand the kind of foundation require. Check out how the roots of the various trees are going around so that you can plan where to dig and look under all big rocks under the property to understand what is there. You would do all to understand what it would take to build the house and reduce surprises.

That’s exactly what you need to do when planning any product initiative.

Then there is a question of how much time should you spend on Elaboration. The Paretto Principle is good guideline. Spend 20% of the time to uncover 80% of the work.


If you are facing challenges with product development work taking longer than expected, give me a shout and I would love to have a conversation.

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