The Top 5 Frustrations of Project Managers and Tips on How to Avoid Them: Part 4 of 5

Emily Down | November 3, 2011

4. FRUSTRATION: Attention deficit.
Creating a detailed 200-page plan that no one has time to read once, let alone every time a change occurs.

You did it. You just completed a month-long effort eliciting feedback from 50 stakeholders and writing the most beautiful requirements document of your life. From a CMMI or BABOK perspective, it is pure poetry of shall statements and use cases. Ok, enjoy that moment for about 30 seconds, because it will quickly be replaced with the fear of whether anyone will actually ever read it.

As project complexity increases, how do you articulate what the plan is without creating a monster of a document? It’s tough. The issue might not be the length of the complete specification document. The issue is that you’re trying to communicate the entire plan to everyone using the document. In reality, most people only work on and care about specific parts of the plan at any given time.

When one item changes and you send a new version of the entire requirements document, it’s both information overload and white noise at the same time. We can’t expect people to hunt and peck for what changed and determine each time if it’s relevant to them or not. This old way is incredibly inefficient, and people just stop paying attention.

TIP: Be relevant.

Adopt the philosophy that everyone is simply too busy to absorb the entire document. Because literally, they are. To avoid being frustrated by your organization’s collective attention deficit, relevancy is key.

This is an area where tools can help you break large, complex projects into smaller manageable parts, and let people filter in on what’s relevant to them. We recommend you manage the scope of projects item by item to get work done.

If you’re curious what we mean by “item,” a requirement is an item. A use case is an item. A test case is an item. A defect is an item.

People naturally work on a list of a few items at a time. It’s how our brains work and we’re more productive that way. By itemizing the scope of your projects using a tool with a relational database, it will allow people to focus on specific items they are working on, while maintain context of the overall project.

Then, as needed for baselines, releases or other milestones, you can group together items and summarize the project via reports or a specification document for a holistic view.

Read part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 or download full whitepaper here.