Saturday, October 02, 2004

People : Convey the big picture

I have observed that development teams that understand the big picture do a better quality job compared to teams that understand only the components that they are building. Sometimes my colleagues express their concern about the lack of urgency among remote teams. I recommend to them that they communicate the big picture to remote teams at the beginning of the project. The customer pain we are addressing, the value we bring to customers, how the project will help the customer, total project revenue, impact of this project’s revenue on the current quarter, impact of the current project’s quality on the sale we are about to make etc., are some good examples of big picture information.

A distributed team member who understands the big picture will work towards accomplishing project goals and work around the hurdles. Team members who understand the big picture are less likely to give you excuses instead of deliverables.

Care should be taken to communicate factual and relevant information. I have seen some demand team members hyping up a project and providing very optimistic information about a client when no substantial information exists. That will back fire. So it is important to be enthusistic and at the same time level headed about it.

I read that Disneyland actually overstates the wait times in their rides so that when you get to the ride within 30 minutes instead of the stated 45 minutes, you actually feel good about the 30 minute wait. I won't comment on the appropriateness of that approach. But I believe it is effective. It is always better to share information with cautious optimism rather than promising something and not delivering.

Understanding the financial aspects of a project can help all team members make right design and development decisions. I'll write my observations in that area later.

Why is the big picture more important to remote team members than team members in the headquarters?
Big picture information is important to everyone. However unlike the headquarters team that can piece together the big picture using information gathered through informal networks and hallway conversations, remote teams rely mostly on planned communications to get their information.

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