While agile has zealots, it is not a religion. Agile is a scientific method that converts economic chaos to profit.
Using an agile methodology for project management can help CEOs, organizations, managers, teams and individuals rapidly adapt to change, beat slower competitors and win profitable markets. Agile methodologies were created to prevent the frequent and expensive manufacturing and development failures that arose in “waterfall” or “ad hoc” projects.
Most people tackle large projects using an intuitively obvious approach called “the waterfall method”: plan a sequence of activities upfront (for example: design, prototype, build, test, deploy), then focus on one type of activity after another until they have completed the whole thing. Only in the end do they have something of value. From software development to car manufacturing, the modular sequencing in waterfall has proven extremely risky, resulting in multi-million dollar project cancellations and corporate bankruptcies. The problem arises from the enormous costs that precede real-world testing. There’s a lot of risk riding on the final stage.
In the first of 3 podcasts, I discuss how to spread agile approaches beyond individual teams to the enterprise level, where potential benefits and challenges multiply. In the realm of project portfolio management, decision-making roles can include a Chief Product Owner and Enterprise ScrumMaster.
Agile methods create conflict. So to retain agility, we must actively promote it even after agile has taken hold. How can we equip a company with the cultural and process tools to sustain agility? Your choices may depend on your perspective. Social psychologists teach organizations to reinvent themselves, but this approach may be too slow for a large company. Change agents study, develop and evangelize specific processes, a more promising approach. “Adaptive portfolio management” is a specific process under development that may help sustain agile-thinking. It maximizes value by rapidly adapting to market and company changes. In using adaptive portfolio management, company leaders exercise agile fundamentals. They can become agile advocates for the whole organization, making agility more stable for developers on the ground.
Concerned citizens might warn you not to stand to close: I rope nearby bystanders into the crime I’m currently committing. So when Scott Downey, the General Patton of Hyperproductive Scrum, told me he was busy crawling wineries near my Santa Barbara office, I suggested getting together. “How about 11:30am for lunch?” I asked. “Perfect,” he said, “See you then.”
Scott arrived, we had a hearty repast, and after agreeing the world needed our genius, I had to get ready to to teach the second afternoon of Scrum Training at Citrix Online. Did he want to come? “Sure,” he said. As we walked into the conference room, I asked if he might like to present some of my slides? “Why not?” he said. When we started looking at them, Scott felt uncomfortable. Could he use his own slides?