Saturday, May 3, 2008

Learning from LTV at LTC: It's About Understanding

Ultimately, success is about understanding. Build teams that will take the time to understand the business and all parts of the project, where every member of the team understands all parts of the projects as a whole, share this understanding in full with anybody who wants to learn, and carry this detailed understanding forward in the enterprise.

Learning from LTV at LTC: Build Complete Teams

ypically projects are done by assembling cross-functional teams from different areas, each person with a narrow responsibility. This is a very efficient way of handling day-to-day business but an ineffective way of getting business-changing projects done. This is especially true is the project is going to be going on for a while.

The key to our success was having a complete team that could handle all phases of the project. There was no point in the project that we threw the project over the wall to another team, or caught something that another team was throwing at us. When we were working with other teams we established working relationships with them and brought those teams into the project. Every member on the LTV team could speak to all aspects of the project and have meaningful input into all aspects of the project.

Let me give an example of what can happen with fragmented, siloed teams. I was working on updating a project that had been launched several years before. There was one team that extracted the data from a datamart, another that took the data and loaded it into a staging area, and a third team that loaded the data from the staging area into the application. I asked the question “who can guarantee that the data in the application is right”? Thunderous silence. No one could guarantee that the final data was right, or even that their step was correct; all they could promise was that their scripts had run without obvious error.

If I had to give a name to this approach I'd call it the “A-Team” approach: complete functional teams that understand each other's areas.

Learning from LTV at LTC: Tell Everything

In a project like this the team gains a great deal of understanding about how the business works and there is always the temptation to keep that understanding within the team. The argument I have heard is that by keeping all the details hidden then the team will maintain control over the results of the project. What I've seen actually happen is that when a team tries to keep secrets others just don't believe them.

In the LTV project we made the decision to explain every detail to anybody who asked. The result was that people had a great deal of faith in what we produced. Even if people disagreed with the decisions that we made in the project, they understood and could respect the decisions.

Learning from LTV at LTC: Build Understanding

Projects that change an organization demand that the project group build a substantial understanding of that the business is, what it could be, and how the project can help the business get there. That understanding needs to stay withing the organization after the project is officially complete. There is a vast difference between the understanding that comes from seeing a presentation on a project and the understanding that comes from actually doing the work.

Projects that are important to the company need to be living, evolving things and that means that the detailed understanding of the project needs to stay accessible to the organization. With LTV, as soon as it came out people wanted additional work and we could do it because we knew the nuts and bolts.