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I have a sticky situation at work I would like to get your advice on.

I'm currently a web development manager overseeing a newly completed team which consists of a developer, a digital designer, and a UX designer. I sat down with the team to figure out our project timelines and create an SLA for a standard landing page project. The team has requested that we slow down our current process to do the work to the best of their ability.

We mapped the process out which involves the following phases and man-hours:

- Discovery [8]
- Definition phase (wireframing & determining technical solutions) [24]
- A/B of the wireframes [16]
- Design [16]
- Development [32]
- Pre Launch Testing & Revision [24]
- The launch [12]
- Post Mortem [4]

I rolled that process up to my VP and they didn't like it.

"It's good to know what they want, but that's not reality" - paraphrased.

And I agree, it's rarely ever a perfect world, and we all get that. Sometimes projects come down the pipeline with accelerated timelines and that's okay. I told them:

I didn't know how to achieve what they want without making mistakes. But I'm willing to figure it out.

I would like to prevent making mistakes and providing subpar work and implement systems for A/B testing like I was hired on to do. I expressed that we're displaying a pattern of hiring staff to support our heavy workload, but then add to it exponentially as soon onboard new members. To which they mentioned that they've been waiting a while to get these projects done. Though in this particular case, is not true, did make sense, (read context below,) as I've been behind on a few projects the last couple of months.

CONTEXT - We're coming up on the 1-year anniversary of our main website redesign (large project 40 pages, multiple features). As the sole developer, I was originally given 30 days and we ended up extending to around 90 days after 2 missed deadlines. Though shortcuts I did were approved, I cut a lot of corners under the constant pressure to reach those compressed timelines. The site was slow and failed to index so we spent a lot of time recovering from that and we also incurred a bunch of technical debt that took another 6 months to workaround and clean up.

They suggested taking an Agile approach (which I have a novice familiarity with, but haven't used in practice.) I responded with:

"In an Agile process, sprints are blocks of time, and that 2 weeks seems to be the de-facto minimum sprint length so the current project we're scoping out would need 2 sprints/4 weeks."

MORE CONTEXT - They wanted the project done in 2-3 weeks. Not counting the other simultaneous running projects.

This seemed to pacify them at the moment, but this morning I received this message:

"I was thinking more of our Friday conversation. When I say embracing agile, I wasn’t pushing the agile processes (though nothing wrong with sprints, backlogs, stand-ups, etc if helpful) but more of the mindset. Let’s release items and A/B test from there. Let’s collaborate, leveraging design and UX thinking from inception, vs wait for all the requirements or content before starting. Let’s move from thinking a page is done when launched to really building in the idea of continual improvement (and looking at the data to see what we should iterate on)"

At first glance, it seems:

  1. In other words: "Let's get it out the door and fix it later."
  2. They also want the Agile results without the Agile process.

While I understand the need to stay away from perfectionism, we have been nowhere close in recent history and I have been held accountable for those problems. At this point, I am not 100% sure to go from here. I have mocked up a 2nd process that slashes the timelines.

- Discovery [8]
- Definition phase (wireframing & determining technical solutions) [10]
- A/B of the wireframes [4]
- Design [12]
- Development [20]
- Pre Launch Testing & Revision [6]
- The launch [4]
- Post Launch Testing & Revision [6]
- Post Mortem [2]

Part of me wants to go to my team and just say "here's what we got, how do we make it work?" Even though I respect my boss, I also don't want to perpetuate the status quo that will burn out my team as I have been for the past few months.

Where should I go from here?

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  • "Where should I go from here?" is in danger of being closed as too-broad. I'm unclear what you're trying to get out of this question.
    – Sarov
    Jul 7 at 20:04
  • Thanks for the response. After reading your answer, it seems clear that I should look into breaking down what portions of the project are independently achievable. Jul 7 at 21:52
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You have two separate problems here.

  1. You are not on the same page as your VP on what 'agile' means.
  2. You think it's the VP's place to decide whether or not a timeline is realistic.

I'll tackle these in reverse order.

Realistic vs. Acceptable Estimates

First, the only one who can decide if an estimate is realistic is the team doing the work. The only one who can decide if an estimate is acceptable is the customer or customer's representative (in this case, the VP). Do not confuse the two.

If an acceptable estimate is unrealistic, change the estimate to be realistic. If a realistic estimate is unacceptable, add resources, reduce scope, or reject the project.

What is Agile?

Speaking as a Scrum Master of ~5.5 years, I 100% agree with the quote you put from the VP. You say:

They also want the Agile results without the Agile process

Whereas I would frame it as:

They want Agile results, and don't particularly care whether or not they're achieved via the Scrum process

Agile is this and this. That's it. It's a philosophy and a way of thinking.

Whether you spend 16 hours in design or 12 hours in design has absolutely nothing to do with whether you're being agile or not. Do you know what would be agile? Something more like this:

"Hey Team. The VP wants [big thing], which I think can be broken down into [50 separate things, each independent, negotiable, valuable, estimable, small, and testable]. How much do you think we can get done in two weeks?"

"Uh, maybe like 5 of them?"

"Okay, so maybe these 5 then?"

"No, that one is a bit sketchy, I don't think we can reliably do it."

"Okay, how about these 5 instead?"

"Yeah maybe."

"Okay let's try it then."

Then 2 weeks later,

"Hey VP, we managed to complete these 4 things. Should we go live now or no?"

"No, not yet. We need [thing] done first."

"Hey Team, how long would it take to do [thing]?"

"About 10 minutes."

"Hey VP, we can get [thing] done in 10 minutes, should we go Live then?"

"Sure. This project is still our highest priority, though, so keep working on it."

"Hey Team. Let's go Live. So, of the remaining tasks, what can we get done in 2 weeks?"

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