Project Management - A Tree Swing Story
The tree swing analogy first became popular in the 1970s, and many variants came later, tackling different subjects such as software development and management.
The analogy depicts how the customer explained the tree swing they wanted and how each department interpreted and implemented the requirements during product development.
The variation of the cartoon showed up in 2003 and displays the perception gaps in software development projects. It then became popular in business circles, especially in management when projects did not go the way they expected due to issues.
Oftentimes, pitfalls in communication, especially not listening to what the customer wanted for their “swing” are blamed for project failure. The project management tree swing analogy also reveals problems in product development and reminds everyone involved what and what not to do to complete a project.
Tree Swing Cartoon Parodies
Look at the cartoon and see what the customer wanted for a swing and what transpires throughout the product development lifecycle.
Here’s how things happen during software project development:
1. Client request
First, the customer describes what they want. When a customer describes what they want, it’s often an overstatement of what they need.
2. Requirements gathering
The requirements are gathered by the product owner and are summarized to how the customer explained them.
3. Analysis of requirements
Project managers and business analysts will translate the requirements to manageable tasks to kick off the project development.
4. Code execution
Software engineers follow PO’s summary requirements and make it work to some extent.
5. Testing and QA
The tested product will not work as expected because of several reasons. Oftentimes, miscommunication in requirements results in differences between expectations and output.
The product, even though it’s not workable, will be sold as working and bug-free software. The sales team can start their job by exaggerating its features.
Customers interested in the product will look for the documentation but to no avail.
8. Customer experience
In the end, what the customer wanted was a swing. Instead, they get a rope that’s nowhere near what they expected.
Customers are billed for the experience and not for the functionality of the product.
When customers encounter a problem with their substandard product, they call the support team for help. However, the support team will only provide simple and ‘radical’ answers that can’t directly solve the issue.
The marketing promotion team can over-advertise what the product can do to get a good deal.
In retrospect, what the customer truly wanted was a simple tire swing. It's obviously what they imagined was more than what they needed.
Communication - The Biggest Challenge In Software Development
Communication is the key to properly interpreting how the customer explained their tree swing
Software project development involves various people working together to meet client requirements. The role of the project manager is to monitor the status and progress of the project through a strategic, efficient, and meaningful method. They’re in charge of communicating with the client to make sure that product expectations are aligned with what the development team is doing.
Communication is a very important element in any well-organized project. Therefore, project management is more than just utilizing tools and following processes. You must ensure that two ends meet by directing the development team toward creating an output that satisfies what the customer wanted for their ‘swing’.
A project is usually executed by different departments, meaning cross-functional collaboration is inevitable. Information flow from one department to another is done by exchanging documents and conducting meetings. The main idea is to keep everyone updated on what each team is doing. In case a member cannot work, others could take over their work and know exactly where to start. If communication between departments or teams fails, people won’t know what their teammates are doing and this could delay the project.
The importance of communication is also emphasized in Scrum events. The daily scrum is a short meeting that lasts for about 15 minutes and is held every day before the start of the workday. The goal of a daily scrum is to inspect what each member is doing in the project and inform the whole team what they plan to finish within the day. This keeps everyone on the same page regarding the project’s status and gives them an idea of what tasks their teammates are responsible for.
Choosing the Right Tool
Since communication is a vital element in ensuring the success of a project, you should carefully choose the right tool to help clarify things in your team. Choosing the right project management tool is what a successful project team must do.
Through collaborating and using tools to keep each other on the same page, the gap caused by different interpretations among departments can be minimized. Listening to how the customer explained their tree swing and interpreting what the customer wanted for their swing can be done more effectively with the help of a project management tool.
The project management tool should allow each team member to enter the efforts in the system and update the hours cost for finishing the task. Through the tool’s comprehensive features, you can oversee and predict the progress of the project, making sure quality and timeliness are achieved throughout the development.
An effective project management tool used by many software development teams worldwide is ZenTao. ZenTao is a Scrum tool and can help you with the following:
- Product management: story management, plan management, release management, product roadmap.
- Project management: team and effort management, task management, Kanban, tree, list, group views, Burndown chart.
- Test management: test case, test case library, test suit, test plan, test result, bug management.
- Continuous Improvement: Jenkins integration, automation testing, Git/SVN/SournaQube repository management, etc.
- Document management: document library, online preview, and editing.
- Reports: customized reports, built-in reports, and Crystal reports.
- Dashboard: todo, calendar, tasks assigned to me, and the summary of work for today.
The difference between ZenTao and other PM tools is that ZenTao divides the complex project management into four major items: story, task, bug, and case, through which ZenTao supports the lifecycle of application development. ZenTao Cloud is also available now.
You should give it a try.
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