Why Ask Why


checklistBefore you spend the next week, redesigning the TPS report, you need to stop and ask yourself a simple question.


Why are you doing it?   If you can not map the task back to a stakeholder or customer objective/requirement (goal) you better stop now.  Some people call this gold-plating.  Additionally if you can not map the task back to one of your personal goals, you better stop now.  I call that flushing time down a toilet.

Do you sometimes feel like you’re rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic?  Are you spending all of your time doing stuff that is not getting you any closer the real goal?  Well, stop for a minute and pretend you are a 5-year-old.

Whenever you ask a 5-year-old to do something, they never seem to do it without first asking why.

Go sit down

Because it’s dinner time.

Because you need to eat your dinner.

Because I don’t want child protective services saying we don’t feed you.

Because we’re trying to get you to adulthood without scarring you too much.

What’s our main personal goal as it relates to our son?

Goal 1: Get him to adulthood without scarring him too much

Now, as project managers and leaders, what are your primary goals? Is it keep the project on schedule? Is it keep the project from going over budget? Or, is it one of the 12 principles of the Agile Manifesto?  Whatever your answer(s), when asked to do something, keep asking why until you reach your main goal(s).

We want to add this change to the next deployed version

Because it is now a priority

Because it will either save time, money, or both

What’s one of our documented goals related to our project?

Goal 1: Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.

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Snow Removal From an Agile PM Perspective


This weekend, our house at the lake received about 30 inches of snow.  It was pretty overwhelming.  Our HOA at Lake Linganore did a very good job and I’m going to tell you why.  Two significant snowfalls ago, we waited 2 days before we saw the first snowplow.  We didn’t hear anything out of the HOA.  Days later, the residents got an email from the HOA saying threatening telephone calls and emails  didn’t help and to please refrain from doing it in the future.  They believed they did the best they could with the resources they had.

I thought they could have done better.  I sent a very pleasant email to the HOA thanking them for their efforts.  A few days later, I sent a followup email with a proposal:  At the next snow storm, I recommended the HOA send out emails, informing the residents of the progress being made.  Whenever I don’t like how a product or service was provided to me, I try to offer constructive feedback.  The next storm came, and this time, so did the emails.  There were only a few but they were very clear.  They outlined the priorities of the snow removal.  Main arteries were of highest priority.  The side streets would be tended to when they could.  This time, some residents got stuck before making it to their homes.  They abandoned their vehicles, and unfortunately, a group of vehicles got hit by a snowplow.

Though it took a few days, the HOA came and plowed us out.  Other than those who had damaged vehicles, the tone in the neighborhood was very much improved.  We understood the priorities and respected them.  The communications is what we valued the most.

This weekend, we had an even bigger storm then the last.  This time, the HOA revised their process.  We got emails a day before the snow arrived.  They advised us to get off the roads by a certain time and identified where to park to avoid getting hit by a plow.  We were also provided a list of the highest priorities in order of importance and grouped by need to have and want to have.  Lastly, we received regular emails notifying us of progress or impediments and who could expect to be plowed out next.

Here are a few successes

  • They listened to customer feedback
  • The process was refined, based on user feedback
  • A list of objectives was made and circulated, identifying items of greatest value
  • Regular communications

We received a status report this evening.  In it, we were advised another storm is on its way.  Though the community will be completely plowed by the time it arrives, we were assured the HOA will keep us informed. They added, snow removal operations will be reviewed to see what went right and what when wrong this time around and apply those lessons learned to the next storm.

Did your snow removal go as smoothly this time around?

I would love to hear your comments or stories.