Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Learn from Project (and Life) Mistakes Using the 5 Whys

You don't have to be using Scrum to have regular lessons-learned sessions on your project. I think these meetings, called Retrospectives in Scrum, are more helpful when you've gone through the entire  Define-Build-Test-Acceptance cycle, but they were all too infrequent when at the end of my traditional projects.

When journaling this morning, I found myself doing the 5 Whys for root cause analysis on something that happened yesterday, and I thought it might make a good (although somewhat painful and embarrassing) example.

Problem: I went the wrong way on Interstate 10 yesterday and it changed my 1.5 hr drive (left early) to 3.5 hours. Why?

1. I didn't put the map directions on my phone to navigation mode. Why?
     A. I didn’t because the battery was too low. Why?
          1) It was low because I didn’t charge it at the client. Why?
               a. I didn’t charge it at the client because I didn’t have a charger in my backpack. Why?
                    I. I didn’t have one in my backpack because we don’t have a spare at home.

Solution: Buy one and keep it in the backpack for client use only.

How would this look on your project? Here's another real example.

Problem: Requirements keep changing (sorry if none of you can relate...). Why?

1. The team makes assumptions that are later found to be wrong. Why?
     A. The Product Owner doesn't put in enough detail. Why?
        1) He doesn't have much time since he's on the road visiting clients. 

Solution: Long term - Find another Product Owner who can dedicate more time. Short term - have a Business Analyst flag and clarify the product backlog item requirements that are thin. 

Although great for projects, these are also great for life (and when's the last time you took time out to work on your life?) Here's some for you to try:
  1. I, or significant others, feel like my work-life balance is way out of balance.
  2. I'm not motivated, much less inspired, with my current job and workplace.
  3. My job/this project is too chaotic.
  4. I don't feel like my team is close or acts like a real team (unity, group decisions, comfortable with each other, clear purpose). 
  5. I/we keep repeating the same mistakes.
  6. I don't feel that I'm growing in my career and/or personally.
  7. I don't feel I've done anything significant (worth mentioning in my Christmas letter) this last year, and next year looks like it will be no different.
If some of those resonate with you, try the 5 Whys on them, and look at resources such as the Storyline conference, The War of Art, Drive, The Leadership Summit, Love Does, or your personality and strengths with Myers-Briggs (free), StrengthsFinder or Action & Influence

If you're a ScrumMaster and wanting to grow, I'll be having a something out soon that provides small, actionable steps, day by day. Reach out to me and stay posted. 

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