Think about your project as a Big Adventure. You are trying to find a treasure. You are going to retrieve a stolen secret document. You are going to set the princess free. Or you are going to create something exciting for an awesome client.
You and your team will work hard to reach The Goal. To create The Thing.
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Every project is a journey. It is never a straight line. You might have some idea about how to move through the unknown territory in search for The Goal. But it’s surely isn’t a done deal. Things happen. Things aren’t always what you think they are. “New shit will come to light“, as The Dude would say. You have to conquer obstacles, re-plan, regroup, rethink and change course.
Back in the days pirates would go through extreme lengths to get their treasure maps. Of course they would only have half of the map. But that was so much better than having no map at all. And the end of the journey would always be indicated by an X. X marks the spot. Your Thing is The X.
Even today. If you are going to somewhere you haven’t gone before, a map is awesome. It provides you directions. It helps you make sense of where you are, and where you should be going. Of course. Maps. Now we have an app for that.
You and your team need a map for your Big Adventure. Imagine your project as a map through unknown territory in search for The Goal. Creating Your Thing. The X. Done.
Actually. You need more than one map. You need a couple of them. Airplane pilots use different kinds of maps than London cabbie drivers. If you are drilling for oil you have a different map than if you are looking for the nearest fresh bottle of Perrier. You can look differently at the same area. You can project different kind of information on the same path.
So. Maps. We have them!
Specially designed for embarking on an Awesome Journey. A true Big Adventure. Yes. Yes. We are still talking about your project. Come on! Let your imagination run wild. A little.
The reason why your project exists, is because it has to fulfill a goal, create an end result. In Shrinkonian lingo that is The Quest, the pursuit of something worthwhile. The goal of your project or organization is a powerful mechanism for alignment. Everyone is working towards the same result. But first you have to make sure they all have the same understanding of what “done” looks like. That is the purpose of this exercise.
In this exercise we use the power of storytelling to interactively create a cunning plan. Although, now it’s called an Adventure Map. Every project is a journey. It is never a straight line. You have to conquer obstacles, replan, regroup, rethink and change course. Imagine your project as a map through unknown territory in search for The Goal. The map reflects the storyline of the project. The episodes of the project life cycle. The glory days of starting the project. The period in which the project was under attack by vicious stakeholders.
The trip along the Yellow Brick Road from the Wizard Of Oz is long. Just like your project. With a lot of turns and twists. And mountains that block your view. From where you are standing you cannot see the end. How do you know you’re on the right track. You don’t want to travel a long distance to notice in the end that you went the wrong way. And people tend to get nervous when they have no idea of how far they are. Like stakeholders in a project. In this exercise you align the perception the stakeholders have of your journey.
The normal Adventure Map has a focus on events, the Stakeholder Adventure Map does focus on, you’ve guessed it, stakeholders. Stakeholder analysis is a technique to identify and analyze the stakeholders surrounding a project. It provides information on stakeholders and their relationships and expectations. A proper analysis of the stakeholders will help you to construct a project approach suited to the situation and will allow you to negotiate better with the stakeholders.
This is an awareness exercise. Getting people into an “uncertainty” mindset. When the path of hurricanes is predicted, maps are used that show us the areas that might be hit. The further away in the future, the larger the potential area is. The weather forecasts get more uncertain if we go from one day, three day to weekly forecasts.
Every project road has forks in them. Points where you can go left or right. Points where you have to go left or right. Some things you have to decide early on, some things can be decided almost at the end of the journey. It is important to focus the attention of team members and stakeholders on these decisive moments. Focus attention on the signpost on the road of your Big Adventure.
A project is a small episode in the personal journey of many individuals. Viewing what you do today in the context of a larger path will help you explore your relationship with the current project. Why do you do what you do? Why do you want to do things in the first place? This exercise, The Map Of You, also addresses the relationships with your team members. They get a little more about your background.
Why is your project taking place right now? And not last year, or next year? Are there also any other projects taking place now? Why? What is the challenge? These questions matter. By exploring the relationship of the project and The Organizational Journey, you and your team create awareness around why you doing things. Awareness beyond the normal “build this” specification. A sense of why you are doing what you are doing. This will help the team to make decisions that fulfill the organizations desires and be more in tune with its context.
In this exercise you create a The Travel Guide To … [your organization]. A travel guide contains The Story of the company. It contains the essence of its culture. Creating The Travel Guide is an awesome exercise for any one planning a change in an organization. It assists storytelling and the discovery of culture. By playing with the elements of the culture from the organization and discovering our own relationship with them, the group culture emerges.
Your ragtag crew needs some kind of protection. If you’re on A Big Adventure you need a support structure. Projects create change. Change makes waves through the organization. And change creates stress for people. Your project is a temporary structure within the host organization. In this exercise you discuss with the group how the ideal tent would look like. What kind of material? What information can get out, or what information should stay in the tent? What would you pack? How do you make sure you can get along on a small confined space for a period of time?
What do you draw when you are visualizing a project on a whiteboard? I draw an arrow from left to right that represents a timeline. Not always. But many times. The way you visualize, determines your focus. I’ve been playing with the simple but powerful concept of a Project Story Circle. The project is represented by a circular arrow and is divided in half with a horizontal line. The idea behind it is the following:
- An organization has the need for something. A challenge has to be conquered. A group of people starts a journey and brings back their result to the organization.
- The upper half of the circle represents time spent outside the project. Preparing for the voyage. And getting the results back to the place where it is needed.
- The bottom half makes up for project time.
- This will focus attention on the transitions organization-project and project-organization.
- This will focus attention on the idea that you undertake the project long before the actual project starts and that it only ends when you have gone full circle; when the actual benefits are realized.