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Top Project Risk Number 10: Bullshit Risk

Are you lying to yourselves about something important?
“I am bidding on a tender. The client has put in requirements that we both know are physically impossible to achieve, but if I don't say I can do it I won't get the contract.”
“We have changed all of our job titles to be Scrum compatible, but we haven't changed how we work. All my colleagues are still working on three projects at once.”
Scrum doesn't solve your problems; you solve your problems. If you follow Scrum, it will help you recognize issues quickly so you can deal with them quickly. These are called impediments. If you don't do anything about your impediments they fester, lower morale and performance, and can endanger the project as a whole. Impediments that are rooted in the contract can be extremely difficult to fix.

Bullshit risk mitigation in Scrum 

The foundations of Scrum are inspection, adaption, and transparency. It only works if you tell each other the truth.

Respect the sprint contract! If you just change the names of your existing roles without actually applying Scrum, you will not get the benefits of Scrum and the benefits of applying agility will not happen.

If the client calls for impossible things in the request for proposals, I would suspect that they are looking for a way to renegotiate the price after the contract has been awarded. This might be more of a negotiation problem than a project management problem.

As the vendor, I would ensure in the bid that ‘high-risk features’ are handled early. If you are going to fail, it is best to fail cheaply and quickly. Scrum lets you do that by prioritizing risky items high on the backlog. If you are going to have a difficult conversation, it is usually better to have it sooner rather than later.

Should the client supply the Product Owner in this case? This is a difficult question, because an assumption of Scrum is that all parties are genuinely interested in achieving the result and are not playing games with each other.

As a vendor, do you want to propose Scrum in this case? Do you want to modify it and provide the Product Owner, treating the client as a stakeholder, accepting that the Product Owner's decision-making authority has been trimmed? Do you even want to work with a client who is going to play such games with you? Business decisions.

If you want to get the whole list right away, you can get my book "Ten Agile Contracts: Getting beyond fixed-price, fixed-scope." Next up: Number 9: Change Management Risk


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