Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Are your stakeholders on the same page?

Sometimes it's not good to rely on assumptions. One of those assumptions might be that you work with people from your product management team and you assume that a key stakeholder of that team is fully in line and on the same page with them.

This doesn't have to be the case as I just had to find out.

Over several months I used the assumption that the product specialist, who I have on my team as the proxy customers and backlog owners, were on the same page with their manager, the product manager. I think all of them thought, too, they were on the same page.

Only two weeks ago it turned out that the product manager had an entirely different understanding of the scope that would be available for an internal release than what at least one of the product specialists thought.

The result was a "sticker shock" for the product manager. With reason!

So what can we learn from this? There is certainly no guarantee that communication would have prevented this form happening. Remember all participants acted in good faith. Still more and more focused communication with your key stakeholders will reduce the likelihood of bad surprises.

So in my case I have arranged for weekly catch-ups with the particular product manager (Agile value: adapt). The intention is to keep each other informed as much as possible about developments that may have an impact on each others work.

Again, this highlights the superiority of direct communication (agile value!) over comprehensive documentation. Of course, regular written progress reports were provided during the same timeframe. And everybody thought everything is alright. Well, it wasn't. A key stakeholder wasn't on the same page.

Are your key stakeholders all on the same page?

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