Project Planning (Thu Oct 11, lecture 10)
How to think about estimation and project planning

Homework due for today

Legend: : Participation | : Early | : PDF | : Zipped

  1. Read: “The Lean Startup”, Chapter 9. Think and answer the following warmup questions:
    • Batch Sizes: Why are small batch sizes said to be superior in planning? What exactly is a batch? Can you think of an example not in the book where batch sizes can be small or large? Does the book match your intuition?
    • Pull vs. Push: Imagine that you lived in an apartment with several other people, and it was your job to make sure you never ran out of milk or toilet paper (…or beer?). Describe how you would go about this if you were employing a pull model vs. a push model. What are the tradeoffs that you will need to make? What resources (time, money, space, transportation) would affect your choice? What are the pros and cons when using pull or push in this scenario?
    • Check for understanding: What key topics from this content are you confused about and would like further explanation? And if it’s all pretty clear, then what are a few of the key learnings or insights presented in this material? p.s. Make sure you indicate clearly for each point whether you are clear on it or are still confused about it!
    • Deliverable: You’re responses to above questions as a pdf
  2. Estimation: Read What do you mean you need more time?. The lawn at my house is 10m x 20m. Estimate how much time it would take you to mow it, and justify your estimate carefully. Estimate how much you would charge me to do it once a week. Email me personally if you need any clarification. Deliverable: Write up your specific overall charge, and your overall time estimate in hours. Include a detailed justification of the time estimate and charge. How exactly did you arrive at thos figures? Write up as a pdf, submit to latte.
  3. Teams: Continue working together and independently on your product in weekly iterations. Review Term Project Outline for suggestions. You are working on Stage 1, deliverables due on Oct 24.

Engine of Growth review


  • Some basic questions to ponder
    • Is it a business or a hobby?
    • What is the objective?
    • Is it sustainable?
    • How much investment does it need?
    • How do YOU define success?
    • You must have a goal in terms of a metric
  • Metrics: Money:
    • Where does the revenue come from?
    • When does it arrive?
    • What metrics drive it? (revenue drivers)
  • Metrics: Non-money
    • It’s not always about money
    • But you still have to have a quantitative goal
    • Number of people vaccinated
    • Number of students who get an internship
    • Number of voters who vote
  • Some models for growth (of the metric)
    • Sticky Engine of Growth (subscription)
    • Viral (users invite other users)
    • Paid (e.g. advertising)
    • Accessory (in product purchases)


  • Project: Political Campaign
    • Election is happening at a known date
    • Objective: recruit volunteers to talk to 5% of population of the state
    • 5% of population: about 300,000 people
  • Questions:
    • How are you going to recruit volunteers?
    • How much money will I need to fund this project?
    • How long will it take?
    • How can I tell as time passes how well I am doing?
Discussion: Brainstorm an approach. Figure out how you could determine whether you would have achieved your goal by election day, and whether you can find out along the way whether you were on track. I am not looking for a number, but a conceptual idea on how you might do it. 15 minutes.

Pito’s Guide to Project Planning

  • Purpose: Achieve a specific goal, that requires multiple resources, by performing a set of tasks, in the right order so as to achieve a desired standard of quality by a certain date
  • Change: Know that change is the norm not the exception
  • Alignment: (Already mentioned) Buy-in and alignment about the specifics of the goal.
  • Who’s got the ball: Try to be unabmiguous about who is responsible for what
  • Document: Write things down in shared common doc repo
  • Tools: communications, project planning, doc repo

It’s all about time

Kent Beck We plan to ensure that we are always doing the most important thing left to do, to coordinate effectively with other people, and to respond quickly to unexpected events.
Discussion: What are some of the ways in which time is used and misused? What can you do to protect against that?
  • The slow start: Think about this! A day at the beginning costs as much as a day at the end!
  • Decision making: Need to make decisions; record the decision; avoid re-visiting if at all possible. (“We already discussed that and decided; is there new information?”)
  • Prioritization: Do the most important thing next; reassess constantly what the most important thing is

Dealing with Uncertainty and Change

Discussion: What are some of the causes of uncertainty and change? What can a team do to succeed in such an environment?
  • Change: By definition, requirements and assumptions change as the project proceeds
  • Unknowns: Very commonly there are lots of uncertainties: How many MVPs will we need? How hard will it be to find 100 people to talk to? How much time will it take to implement authentication?
  • Common Sense: Develop a skill to make reasonable common sense assumtions. Will we need 0 MVPs? or will we need 10 MVPs? Then narrow it down
  • Data: If you have a lot of uncertainty now, you don’t need much data to reduce it significantly. If you have much certainty already, you will need a lot of data to reduce it significantly.

Types of Risk

Discussion: What do all these kinds of risk have in common? Can you think of other kinds of risk that need to be considered?
  • Quality Risk: Will you create something of sufficient quality. What is sufficient quality?
  • Cost Risk: Will you be within your cost estimates? Do you have an absolute budget?
  • Time Risk: Will you complete your project on time? Where did the deadline come from? Is it absolute? What is the impact of missing the date? Can the date be changed?
  • Feature Risk: Will your project deliver all the subcomponents, or subdeliverables, or features that you think you need? Which features are must-have vs. nice-to-have?

Usually will have to trade off one against the other

Getting and maintaining alignment

Discussion: What are some tell tale signs that you are not aligned? How can you detect that? What can an individual team member do about that? Do you need to have a strong leader to achieve alignment?
  • Failure mode: When a team is unclear or there is unspoken disagreement about objectives
  • Communicate: Talk to team members and brainstorm until you agree on the goal. Needs compromise and negotiation
  • Capture: Write result down (in your) doc repo
  • Update: Revise and keep discussing as the project continues.


We will use Kanban approach Lean Startup using ideas borrowed and adapted from Agile. I am developing a an outline cto help guide teams through the term project.

  • Preferred tool for tracking stories
  • Get one account for each team
  • Share it with Professor and TAs
  • Start with these “lanes”
    • Backlog
    • This Week
    • Next Week
  • A brief (1-3 sentence) summary of something that has to be done
  • Level of detail corresponds to what would be needed to complete the story.
  • All stories start off in the backlog
  • Every “idea” or piece of work should be a story on trello
  • Use a weekly iteration corresponding to the class schedule
  • Every Tuesday is another iteration
  • At the start of the iteration, reprioritize
  • Some number of stories from the top of the backlog are planned for the coming week.
  • Associate specific students which storeis to be done this week
  • Whenever new ideas come up, during brainstorming or anything else, add them to the backlog.
Kanban Leader
  • I suggest (but don’t require) that you choose one student to be the Kanban leader
  • In charge of the discussion at the start of the iteration
  • Follows up to see that things are going as planned

Other useful information

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