I can’t help it. I’m a Project Manager. It is what “I Was Meant To Do”. When a project appears anywhere in my life, I get a compulsion to actively manage it. I try to back off and just go with the flow. “This isn’t work. It’s just a hobby (or vacation, or kid birthday party, or whatever), " I tell myself. "Stop taking it so seriously." But then I get twitchy. I wake up in the middle of the night thinking of work break down structures. I start sketching out high-level project plans in my head. My husband sees that look in my eyes and thinks, “here we go again… not another gannt chart on the fridge.” [I have a good husband. He tolerates this insanity.]
Last summer, we decided to remodel our kitchen. And I decided, much to my husbands chagrin, to act as the general contractor and manage the whole thing myself (yes, I am that crazy). With some good pre-planning (sketching out the goals of the project, high-level architecture complete, and all materials ordered and on-site), I took a week off from work to get this thing done. [Disclaimer, we are DYI-ers, so we knew at least a little about what we were doing.] Because I was enjoying Agile successes at work, I decided to use a loose Agile process to manage the kitchen remodel. Mind you, I never told the team that I was using Agile, nor did I outline the process we were using. I never made burn-down charts, used post-it cards, or any of the other artifacts of a process. (I’m not that crazy!). I just used an Agile mindset to guide the team through the project.
Here’s what worked:
The result – the kitchen remodel was completed in a mere 7 days. And it was fun. (Yes – I just said 7-day-kitchen-remodel and fun in the same sentence.) How’s that for an accelerated delivery method! Perhaps, too, I’ve found my next career. Hmmm….
So what does this have to do with Agile rollout?
When I hear folks starting to roll out Agile, I find they become obsessed with what tools to use, what artifacts are needed, and what processes to follow. I understand this obsession. It stems from a formal PM training which focuses almost exclusively on these things. PMs like things planned out and buttoned up tight. Plan up-front and execute the plan. Pure and simple.
But Agile is a different beast entirely. It is flexible, adaptable, and even organic. The real benefits are seen in the Agile “state of mind” – creating an environment that embraces change. Creating burn-down charts and note cards would have done nothing for my kitchen remodel. But the daily face-to-face interaction and my being on the job site through the duration worked wonders.
When you embark on your Agile roll-out, try to focus on the “soft” things - immediate face-to-face communication, flexible skill sets, adaptable project implementation, and just-in-time problem solving. Note cards, fancy software, burn-down charts, and documented processes, while useful and important, just simply aren’t going to bring you the Agile nirvana you’ve been reading about.
Disclaimer: The statements and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Thoughtworks.