Chapter 6. What to do with ideas once you have them

As hard as it is to find good ideas, it’s more difficult to manage them. While the project is humming along, vision document in place and a strong creative momentum moving forward, there is another level of thinking that has to occur: how will the designs and ideas translate into decisions? Even if good design ideas are being investigated, and people are excited about what they’re working on, the challenge of convergence toward specifications remains. If a shift of momentum toward definitive design decisions doesn’t happen at the right time and isn’t managed in the right way, disaster waits. For many reasons, project failure begins here.

If the team is still struggling to make big decisions on the day programmers need specifications (or the decisions they contain), the tone has been set for the rest of the project: things will be late, they will be half-assed, and people will not be able to do their best work. More troubling is that even if things are completed on time, if the quality of ideas reflected in the designs is poor, timeliness may not matter. Depending on the goals of the project, the quality of the ideas may count as much as, or more than, being on time.

For these reasons, the time between the completion of early planning and the writing of specifications, in any milestone, is always tough. Teams naturally tense up when the first major deadline (i.e., specifications) is visible on the horizon. Even if people ...

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