Project Management - A Tree Swing Story

2020-05-07 10:49:12
Michi Mirai

The tree swing analogy first came in the 1970s and many variants came later on different subjects, such as software and management. It depicts the difference of how each department interprets and implement a requirement in the development of a tree swing. The variation of the cartoon on perception gaps in software development projects first came out in 2003. Then it became popular among the management to address issues when projects did not go the right way. Someone blames the pitfalls in communication, such as not listening to the client, but it also reveals the problems in product development and reminds anyone involved what to do and what not to do.

Look at this cartoon.

(Image Source : )

  1. When a customer describes what s/he wants, it tends to be true that s/he always overstates it.
  2. The product owner gathers the customer's requirement and summaries it.
  3. Engineers follow PO's summary and make it work. Well, to some extent...
  4. Then programmers will write it. However, when you test it, it is not workable.
  5. Finally we have a product, so the sales can start their job by exaggerating its features.
  6. When you want to check the documents to, it is always nowhere to be found.
  7. What the operations build is simply a rope. Gosh, I don't know what to say. 
  8. Customers are billed for extraordinary experiences.
  9. The way Helpdesk solves problems is just simple and "radical".
  10. Voila! It turns out what the customer truly wants is just a simple tire swing.

Communication: the big "C"

A project is about a bunch of various people working together to meet the requirements. The role of a project manager is to monitor details through strategic, efficient and meaningful conversations on a project. "About 90% of the time in a project is spent on communication by the project manager"[6]. As it is known, communication is a very important element of any well-organized project. Therefore, project management is not just tools and processes.

A project is usually done by several departments, which means cross-functional collaboration is required. The information flow from one department to another is done by documents and meetings. Every one should know what the other team member is doing. If one asked for a leave, others could do his work and know exactly where to start. The project could be delayed, if the communication fails that no one knows what he has been doing and replace him.

The importance is also emphasized in Scrum events. For example, the Daily Scrum. Daily Scrum is a time-boxed short meeting for about 15 minutes and held every morning with team members before they they start to do the work for today. It aims to inspect what everyone of the project team is doing and inform what he plans to finish today. By doing Daily Scrum, it keeps every one of the team on the same page.

Choose the right tool

You can also implement a tool to help clarify things in your team. Choosing the right project management tool is what successful project teams 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. Each team member should enter the efforts in the system and update the hours cost finishing the task. Then, the project manager could oversee and predict the progress of the project.

ZenTao is a Scrum tool, and can help you with:

  • 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 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 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.


Anthony Dwamena, 2020-07-08 13:04:03
I think planning well is important to be a successful program manager however understanding the scope of the project is equally important especially giving a feedback of how you as the project manager understands the scope of the work clearly to the stakeholders to make sure you are on the same page will help you know that you are on course. Otherwise you will execute the project and just to find out that it didn't meet the stakeholders expectations
Datuah N. Joseph 2020-07-08 12:27:33
Even though team work is important in project management, effective communication among team members is the most relevant attribute to the success of the project.
Julliet Bapenda Balemba 2020-07-08 06:49:47
Am Balemba Julliet from Cameroon..In all works of life the most common complaint that usually comes up is the lack of Communication.In connection with the above story line,i think if the Five(5) C's of communication which are Clarity,Consistency,creativity, Consent and Connection is effectively implemented,we will suffer less in our project. Furthermore, in line with what Alfred Itunga said, i agree with him because the process of proper documentation is also a key to success in a project because (Work done without documentation is equal to work not done )Thus where are all the proves to actually show that the activity was carried out if a supervisory team pass by for supervision.
Abdulmateen Vanwyck Dissi 2020-07-08 06:37:27
This is Abdul, I observe missing of steps in Project Phase models. First, the team here, in the illustrated pictures failed to understand the justification of what customer was looking about. The technical team had no time to meet and discuss how to set the project and share roles. Qualities of someone to manage the project is also missing amongst the group as we see them not attentively listening to understand customer's NEEDS. Team spirit were not there and this resulted in producing something very different from what the customer was looking for. The analyst, project leader and the rest of the team members were working independently and without plan.
This pictures provides a true picture of what soppose to happen for a succesful project that will meet end users expectations. The leader lack skills technically in monitoring and evaluating the work throughout so that can implement where it went wrong and revisit the plan inorder to come up with required job. The leader failed to communicate what was required to the analyst. Although the customer did not explain clearly the picture of what he wanted but it was the responsibility of the team leader to get true picture of the job. The way the leader understood it was completely different from what the customer explained. Leader was unable to make follow ups.
Joel Nkonde 2020-07-08 05:28:18
There is a big gap of communication and misunderstanding of the need at all level of stake holders involved in this project . It seems to me that stake holders are working in isolation and not involved in the different phase of the life cycle of this project, hence a product not reflecting the real need of customer
Barnabas Kwame Yeboah 2020-07-08 04:04:31
My name is Barnabas from Ghana.
Indeed miscommunication and understanding the other person's perspective are key ingredients to ensure a smooth project management execution. I therefore associate myself with earlier colleagues that if you don't get it right from the beginning, you might as well get it wrong at the end. I have personally had to reject some contracts due to failure of the contractor deliver on our initial agreement
P.K.Kubai 2020-07-08 03:22:30
It's usually easier said than done, that why projects are not able to achieve the intended objectives. in my situation as the team, many times people fail to follow the written procedures and standard operating guidelines hence making the working implementation difficult
Gideon Ekow Quayson 2020-07-08 03:14:44
I agree with Emmanuel, there are alot of project going on most institutions that the officers in charge dont plan well, i wonder if they even have the basic skills in handling project, so they start and end someway without completing, that's what is affecting most African countries.
Gideon Ekow Quayson 2020-07-08 03:11:22
Hello, am Gideon Ekow Quayson from Ghana, the illustrations clearly tells us about well a project manager is to work and plan well from the beginning to the end, Because the success of every project can be determined from how the begining was handled.
i am personally with an organisation undertaking a survey in my country, their budget, timelines and publicity plans had been done and where about starting. Now everything is been looked through again because of the current, global pandemic. To now mangement is finding it difficult to run budgets because contracts with field officers has been signed already and so they are to be paid every month which in a way is going against the Agency.
With knowledge gained recently from the illustrations above, i can say the institution didnt budget for the unforseens, and having difficult time to correct things.
kenya 2020-07-08 02:59:58
Hae everyone, am Daisy Kwala from kenya and from my understanding its clear that the goal of the project was not clearly defined so everyone was trying to creat their own understanding of what is expected ,so from this i learn that its good to make people understand exactly what a project is all about first.
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