Abandoning Success

To pursue effectiveness

Published on Friday, February 24, 2017

Abandoning the successful project

To illustrate how focusing on effectiveness has played out for me, I wanted to share a quick story about a current situation.

The client project I've been working on for nearly a year is in the process of a complete replanning and change in direction. To people outside our team, this has come as a surprise. According to all the metrics we track, things were going great. Velocity was good and trending upwards. Our cumulative flow had a nice, steep slope to it. We were ahead of schedule and under budget. Everything looked great, so why change anything?

As we worked deeper into the project, we had a growing sense of unease. It was becoming more and more evident that several key assumptions made in the beginning weren't true. The product we were building wasn't going to meet our audience's needs very well. We began to worry that they wouldn't adopt the new product and would stick with the existing process. There was never a huge red stop sign, but lots of little warning signs started to accumulate.

The team was faced with a choice: stay the course to successfully deliver a product that nobody wanted or start over and build something useful.

It sounds like a simple decision, but it wasn't. Incentives to "stay off the radar" are strong. Sticking to what you know works is tempting. Instead, we've lost time figuring out what we should build and we're receiving a lot more scrutiny as a result. We're taking on significantly more risk by trying something new.

The decision hasn't been easy, but it was definitely the right one. Early feedback from our audience has been much better than before. Instead of marginally engaged stakeholders, we're seeing active participation and excitement.

Had we kept our heads down and stuck to the path we were on, we would have "successfully" wound up in the planned destination, but been unhappy with the results. As a result of prioritizing effectiveness over productivity, we're leaving the comfortable track and starting towards a better product.