Monday, 14 July 2014

Naked Lunch and the shared backlog

The title means exactly what the words say: naked lunch, a frozen moment when everyone sees what is on the end of every fork"
William Burroughs, Naked Lunch

A minor incident ordering coffee

So I've noticed this lovely little coffee shop with an intimate atmosphere, comfortable seating and wifi. Win! I have to make a meeting after lunch, but there's no queue so I order my coffee and take a seat. Ten minutes later and still no coffee - it turns out that they'd taken a large order just before I walked in. I end up pouring my cup out into a takeaway cup and running back to the office. Luckily the client is later than me.

How did this go wrong? I expected usual coffee shop dynamics to apply, with a visible queue as a rough indication of how long I'd have to wait. But with table service, no queue...

A minor incident ordering takeaway

My wife and I are in a mood for takeaway. We spot a local Nepalese restaurant on a local online service, order and pay. It comes back and tells us that our food will be delivered in 1 hour. Damn. Normally I'd ask how long it will take before placing my order, but the website has removed that step from the workflow. And we're hungry!

Your project should be a Naked Lunch

Both times the assumptions that I use to regulate my order were violated. In the coffee shop, no visible backlog. On the online order form, no delivery time information. It worked out well for the suppliers - an order when I wouldn't have otherwise. But it's a very short-term win - I won't order takeaway online again and I'll be more cautious next time I visit that lovely little coffee shop. I need clear information to make an informed decision, to have confidence in my supplier.

It's almost facile at this point to suggest that the same applies to your project and your stakeholders. If you want your client to come back, they have to be confident that you're sharing the information they need to make informed decisions. And that means sharing openly. Backlog, risks, delays - the good and the uncomfortable. They have to see exactly what's on the end of every fork.

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