In today's hyper-connected world, it's difficult to have a project that does not have any dependencies — internal or external, upstream, or downstream — on projects, initiatives, vendors, tools, or functionalities.
Impacts of Dependencies
If you are not careful about dependencies and you do not put any effort in identifying them, they will sneak up on you and derail your initiative.
- The later you identify them, the more costly it will be to address them, the more time it will add to your delivery time, and the more negative of an impact it will have on the quality of work you can deliver.
- You will be dealing with hot heads. The stakeholders will not be happy to hear you say that it will take more time.
- Your estimates will be way off if you ignore the dependencies.
So, why not be intentional about them as you start on an initiative and throughout the execution of it? Why not spend some time upfront talking about potential dependencies?
I use this simple tool with the teams I coach. It is a simple, intuitive, easy-to-use, and very effective.
Start this session with your team by drawing a circle at the center of a whiteboard or flip chart sheet. Put your program/team name in the center. All the spikes on this wheel are the dependencies that are known at the time. As you identify a new dependency, just draw another spike.
The more rims you have on the dependency wheel, the more air it has to cut through, the more friction it has to push through. Similarly, your program/project will have to cut through more of the red carpet and push through more friction from other projects if you have more rims on your dependency wheel.
The more rims you have on this dependency wheel, the more difficult and complex the project will prove. It also helps you in setting the expectations with your stakeholders and helps the team when they are providing their estimation.
Here is a sample from a team I coached in the past at a client:
Why Identify Dependencies?
As you can see, it is of paramount importance to spend some time thinking about dependencies and identify them up front. Granted, you will not know all the dependencies. However, the mere fact that you are putting in some time to think about them upfront is a huge win. It gives you a gauge as to how much additional force you will need to push through the friction.
Above all, it helps you in setting the expectations of all the parties. It helps you ground the expectations of stakeholders. It also helps ground the team and provide more realistic estimates.
As I mentioned, it adds tremendous value and increases your chances of success on a program or initiative. You can start reaching out to those parties (on whom you are dependent or who are dependent on you). The cross-functional team works on the initial version of this wheel as they go through the planning activity (release planning, Sprint planning, etc.). It can be a good artifact to take to your Scrum of Scrum.