How to improve teams, execution and project management.

This is a simple frame for testing your vision, your pitch for a project, or your proposed solution. One of my mentors uses it all the time to test the thinking and to make sure the team stays on track. I've adopted because it's a great way to stay focused on the basics. Don't let the basics get in the way of great results.

On the Microsoft patterns & practices team, we use Vision / Scope as a key milestone. It’s where we frame the problem, identify the business opportunity, and paint a vision of the solution. It’s a forcing function to get clarity on the customer, their scenarios, and our scope for the project. We generally use a “fix time, flex scope” pattern, so this means having a candidate backlog that we prioritize with customers.

At patterns & practices, we use Vision Scope milestones to sell management on how we'll change the world. Knowing the vision and scope for a project is actually pretty key. The vision will motivate you and your team in the darkest of times. It gets you back on your horse when you get knocked off. The scope is important because it's where you'll usually have to manage the most expectations of what you will and won't do.

The following is a short list of some of the project practices that have helped me maximize impact, while shipping on time and on budget. Verification Dog fooding. Throughout the project, I have the team dog food what we build. See Dog fooding (WIkipedia.) 5 customers. This is an critical check throughout the project that 5 customers stand behind the project. They key is these are 5 customers that actually use the deliverable.

One of the best ways I've found to map out a problem space is to create what I call, "Scenario Frames." I call them scenario frames because they are an organizing frame of scenarios. Simply put, they're a set of one-liner stories or scenarios organized by categories. The beauty of a scenario frame is that it can contain macro-level or micro-level scenarios and, because it's a tickler list, it's easy to traverse.