What's the best way to deal with task dependencies - what bad things have happened based on dependencies, and how have you fixed them?
Robbie Edwards: Ideally, our workgroup structure encourages the workgroups themselves to identify and handle their task dependencies. For example, if a problem in our character pipeline is identified that is dramatically affecting quality or productivity, the character production workgroup is empowered to deal directly with the person to fix the problem, typically resolving it without much fuss. In terms of scheduling, we try to identify areas with a high number of dependencies and ensure they receive focus to prevent costly delays and problems.
Frank Rogan: Like Robbie indicates, above, our functional teams are set up to deal with their own dependencies, but in all cases, dependencies are best dealt with by forward-looking and planning in the pre-production phase. Problems with dependencies are usually the result of communication breakdowns, which is why functional teams exist in the first place – each team has representatives from different disciplines, to bird dog those issues before they become problems.
Adrian Crook: We found that the best way to deal with dependencies is two-fold: First, by organizing into multidisciplinary Scrum teams that contain every team member required to get that team's specific body of work completed, we eliminate virtually all external dependencies. Secondly, for the dependencies that remain, we have a prominently displayed dependency board to which everyone on the team can add items via post-its. The Leads and the scrum teams review the dependency board together several times a week to ensure everything possible is being done to knock dependencies off before they become blockers.
Peter O'Brien: Some tasks are easier than others. The less complex the tasks the easier it is to manage dependencies, no matter how many. With large tasks that appear as a black hole when you look at them as a Producer, you can only really attempt to chunk it up in large milestones. A good place to start is backward from the mastering date. You still end up firefighting a lot but it should be on the smaller issues and allocating resources or improving focus can often alleviate issues. If a task isn’t tracking and having a domino effect, the best action in the short term is to re-prioritize the dependent where possible.
Harvard Bonin: Not keeping track of dependencies is a recipe for disaster on a project. This will result in idle time and team members that seem to always be waiting. Cells (different disciplines working hand in hand on a feature) tend to help make sure everyone is working on the right thing at the right time.
There will always be some form of dependency not accounted for. Also, many team members often feel like they should be working on something more important. Its the producer's job to make sure all team members understand why tasks must be completed in a certain order. Sometimes things just take longer than expected. Its important for the producer to know when to move onto something else. Team members come to the producer for guidance, assuming that you have a road map and know the goings on within other departments. And they are right to expect you to.