Your bi-weekly steerco: the heartbeat of bureaucracy

Door Patrick Verheij

Incremental delivery of quality software is a characteristic of being agile. We work in iterations which have the same fixed length over a longer period. As such we create a heartbeat and a healthy productivity flow.\r\n\r\nHaving a heartbeat is nothing new. Most large companies have one: their bi-weekly steering committee gatherings. Every two weeks, a (usually large) group of people that are (more or less) responsible for multiple projects gather to discuss…doubtful data about these projects.\r\n\r\nSome companies organize them with a lot of rituals: the data has to be delivered upfront as pre-formatted PowerPoint slides or spreadsheets, the attendant are dressed up for the occasion, and the unfortunate project representatives (project managers) sit outside the conference room until they are called in.\r\n\r\nFortunately, a lot of companies have less formalities these days ;-)\r\n\r\nAnyway, let’s get back to the doubtful data. Usually this data is made up by the project manager to fit both the boundaries of the template and the information need of the steering committee attendants. This project manager spends a lot of time every week gathering data from her team and beautifying the slides and sheets. Most of her time and effort usually goes in the latter.\r\n\r\nAnd yes, they are often confessing just that, accompanied by a smile and a sigh: “they want data, so they get data”.\r\n\r\nBy the way, did I mention that quite often the people in a typical steering committee don’t even know anyone in the actual projects they try to control apart from the project managers? And that they sometimes don’t even know where the projects reside?\r\n\r\nNow of course I am making fun of steercos. The point is that just about everybody in companies do the same…while they keep wasting time on their steering committees.\r\n\r\nSPENDING time on properly informing people that are too busy to care about a project would be forgiveable. SPENDING time properly involving important stakeholders to a project would be right. SPENDING time improving the information flow to ensure better and faster decision making would be awesome!\r\n\r\nWasting time on repeating the same ineffective process over and over again is just a sign of ignorance and lack of care.\r\n\r\nPlease read Niels Malotaux’ article on the Local Loop Principle to get you started. It’s no use to try to get rid of your steerco if you don’t have a proper way of showing what you’re doing on your project. So fix that first.\r\n\r\nBesides that, make sure the project focuses on getting early results. Results count because they provide real data. So start building those early prototypes. Prove those architectural assumptions. Get that data from A/B testing and MVP’s.\r\n\r\nAnd show it to people who care enough to show up after you invite them\r\n\r\nLet’s get rid of the bureaucratic heartbeats we got addicted to. Let’s replace them with proper delivery heartbeats that are so rich with information and so transparent that nobody can ever image that we once organized ourselves into stupid ivory towers to steer a project. Ever again.

Patrick Verheij

06 59 443 447

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