Who Defines (or Redefines) Landing Zone Criteria?

Who should be in on discussions that set landing zone criteria? Because most landing zone have architectural implications, someone knowledgeable about the system architecture, in addition to the product owner and other key stakeholders should have a lot to say in vetting a landing zone.

Someone who has depth, breadth, and vision, is an ideal candidate for crafting an initial cut. But even if you are brilliant, I suggest you fine-tune your landing zone with a small, informed group. If you have lots of stakeholders who want to chime in, give each stakeholder group a voice in identifying qualities and values they find particularly relevant. And ask a representative from each stakeholder group to join in on a landing zone discussion. At a landing zone review, expect healthy discussion. Experts are usually highly opinionated as well as passionate.

You might even want to facilitate your discussions.

I find it much more effective to have an informed facilitator guide landing zone discussions, than a dispassionate, uniformed professional facilitator. An ideal landing zone meeting facilitator should know about the program or product but need not be the “authority” or definitive “expert”. It’s more important that they know the landscape and they are good at gaining consensus and getting the best out of individuals who hold strong opinions. Possibilities: chief business architects, quality leads, the program or product manager, yes, even a software architect.

Sometimes a facilitator needs to step out of that role and offer informed opinions. I find this highly desirable, as long as this shift is made clear: “Hang on, do you mind if I take a stab at explaining what I think are more reasonable targets?”

Minimum, target and acceptable values should be agreed upon by the group and it might take some discussion to reach mutual understanding and consensus. For example, someone might initially propose a set of landing zone values based on historical trends and extrapolation. The software architect could push back with values based on prototyping experiments and new benchmark data. The group might end up adjusting targets because that evidence was compelling. Or, they might agree on tentative values that need to be firmed by an expert. Hammering out numbers just to finish the landing zone isn’t the goal. Instead, you want to shape ideas for what you think will make your product a success based on the best evidence you have, backed up by experience and tempered by group wisdom. To effectively do this, people need to come to the discussion with mutual respect, trust and no hidden agendas.

And if you are agile, recognize that your landing zone can and should recalibrated once you learn more about what’s possible.

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