Agile Project Management

Cutting-edge Agile methodologies, software development techniques and project management practices.

Oct 222014

Every once in a while, you run into an individual or an organization with an acutely mechanistic view of software development processes. “Mechanistic,” in this context, means that processes are like machines: you wind them up and let them go. As long as they continue to operate, good things will result. This misconception echoes a similar view of political systems that is alternately harmless and dangerous. In “The Place Of The Independent In Politics,” James Russell Lowell warned that too many Americans had lapsed into a view of the Constitution that it was a “machine that would go if itself.” “I admire the splendid complacency of my countrymen,” Lowell said, “and find something exhilarating and Read more

Sep 232014

In a recent post, I talked about the value of playing a game about Agile portfolio management. The game showed how, over time, stable Agile teams are more productive than ad hoc teams of even the highest performers. As a result, Agile turns on its head the way many people look at portfolio management: rather than feeding teams to projects, portfolio management should feed projects to teams. This example shows one of the many virtues of serious games, their ability to help us make sense of important principles about the operation of systems. Our brains struggle with systems thinking, so anything that can help us move beyond our cognitive limitations is a good thing. Some Read more

Sep 162014
Dedicated Teams And The Agile Portfolio Management Game

Dedicated teams are critical to the success of Agile projects, both in the short-term (this particular project) and the long term (the queue of future projects. A serious game on which I’ve been working shows this principle in action better than any words I’ve used to communicate this point. I started working on the game because a lot of people struggle with the notion of dedicated teams. Even in cases when Agile has achieved a foothold in the organization, and everyone’s happy with the results, many people outside these teams may not understand or appreciate how big a difference team cohesion makes. There’s a difficult cultural shift from seeing teams as collections of individual “resources” Read more

Aug 262014
Leadership for Successful Agile Transitions

If you only adopt one practice of Agile, adopt retrospectives. The rest will emerge from that. This is old wisdom among Agilists, and back in the early 2000s, Cutter Senior Consultant Alistair Cockburn boiled down his Crystal Clear method to “Iterate and Reflect.” I thought everything of interest had already been written on this topic — until I was involved recently in a mostly failed transition during which this was a major topic. Looking at leadership models, you find the concept of post-heroic leadership where the heroic leader solves problems by either being the expert him or herself, or an “achiever” who pushes others to solve the problem. The post-heroic leader works by providing the Read more

Aug 182014

Back in 2004, when he was a vice presidential candidate, then-Senator John Edwards hit a nerve with his “Two Americas” speech at the Democratic National Convention. Here is the core sentence in that speech: And we have much work to do, because the truth is, we still live in a country where there are two different Americas, one for all of those people who have lived the American dream and don’t have to worry, and another for most Americans, everybody else who struggle to make ends meet every single day. It doesn’t have to be that way. The Agile movement faces its own version of the Two Americas problem. It’s appropriate and necessary to celebrate Read more

Aug 122014

From Guest Editor Dave Rooney: As a consultant and Agile coach, I’ve had the opportunity to work with many different clients and speak to many people about Agile methods. From my earliest Agile experiences in 2000 to the present day, I’ve encountered a common statement made by those who haven’t been part of teams working in an agile manner, and even from some who have. The phrasing always contains the words, “in the real world.” For example, “Agile is great in theory, but I can’t see it working in the real world.” Or how about, “Test-driven development sounds great, but in the real world it’s impractical.” Then there’s, “Having each team member dedicated 100% to Read more

Jul 012014
Who Is the Product Owner?

For a rapidly evolving role, the basic requirements of product ownership are somewhat ill-defined. The role was developed initially in Scrum, which has become the most widely used and recognized component of Agile development. But the concept is close to the chief engineer in Lean engineering as well as similar roles in other Agile philosophies. Product owner is a critical role, but one that has sprung from software development rather than the business side. We must bring today’s product owner into the organizational structure. The product owner role is crucial because it represents the actual interface between stakeholders — users, managers, marketers, and the business community — and the development team. Without the product owner, Read more