Launching a project during lockdown

Why stating the obvious can be a recipe for success

As a small company we have the advantage of being able to respond quickly to change: we all know each other and our individual quirks and abilities, making it easy to change direction and seek advice and expertise from each other when we need to. The strength of these relationships has also made it easier to carry on functioning as normal during lockdown (with a helping hand from collaborative cloud technologies) and keep delivering at the same pace, if not faster.

Another advantage is our ability to form new teams which can hit the ground running. When a new team forms it matures through four stages - ‘’forming, storming, norming and performing’’ - in order to find its rhythm and start delivering effectively. This process normally takes some time, but we find that we can quickly advance to optimum performance and focus on the problem in hand from the outset.

To support this journey we have developed a project mobilisation methodology which has been particularly useful for kickstarting new projects during lockdown:

1. Create a motivation model to understand what and why

We start by analysing what the project is trying to achieve and why, building a structured ‘motivation model’ to record the project’s goals, desired outcomes, and drivers behind it. This ensures that the team states and agrees a clear definition of the project’s purpose, rather than simply assuming that all stakeholders have the same understanding of what we are trying to achieve.

This may sound like stating the obvious, but we have found time and time again that going through this process exposes gaps and conflicting ideas at the very beginning of the project.

These are most often around understanding of the scope (the result of stating specific goals and outcomes), and clarifying this early

helps to manage expectations and to put structure around how the work might be delivered.

Motivation modelling should not take

a long time, the idea is to do ‘just enough’ to ensure a shared and agreed understanding, and to drive out

key gaps and questions.

2. Capture collective knowledge (and gaps) transparently

We capture key gaps and questions in a ‘CADRADIO’ board, our second essential mobilisation tool. A CADRADIO board is our expansion on the traditional RAID log (Risks, Assumptions, Issues, Dependencies) to add Clarification Questions, Actions, Design Decisions and Observations. RAID logs often end up being maintained by the project manager and sometimes not even viewed by the rest of the team, but with a CADRADIO board the whole team contributes from the start.

We tend to begin with more clarification questions and assumptions, and these shape a lot of our early customer engagement. Business analysts will use the clarification questions to form the basis of initial elaboration sessions, and both the business and technical teams will validate assumptions as we progress. It is a particularly useful tool on agile projects and for teams with part-time members (such as those bringing specific domain expertise) as it allows anybody to see the team’s collective knowledge at that point in time.

These tools have helped our teams get started on new projects efficiently and effectively whilst working remotely during lockdown, enabling team members to self-direct and be more proactive. It is worth remembering that these are working documents and do not have to be perfect: it is going through the process of creating them that allows us to develop a shared understanding and move the project in the right direction, towards the right outcome for our customers. Our mobilisation methodology was established long before we faced the challenges of remote working and maintaining team cohesion during lockdown, but we have found unexpected benefits as we adapt to this ‘new normal’ - still working together effectively, just at a safe distance.