Organizational change for innovation: Agile versus predictive

As technology service continues to evolve in methodologies, values, principles, and practices organizational adjustments are necessary to embrace and support innovative and creative solutions. Over the last 30-40 years management, as a standard practice, has evolved and we see a much more intensive investment in leadership and emotional intelligence.  

Had management not evolved with leadership as an accepted value-based role, there would be a direct and constant conflict between the roles and responsibilities. In the same vein, the introduction of a document lite, a value-based delivery system focused on bringing value to the organization quickly and cheaply through an evolutionary and iterative process conflict with the formalization of predictive (traditional) project management, PMOs and governance models.

50% of PMO’s fail in the first five years of implementation. The primary rationale for this painful statistic is that a PMO is a cost center and is rapidly placed in a position where the justification for their existence becomes a regular exercise. One of the many validation approaches has been to justify the PMO based on the performance metrics and governance models that are imposed across projects to ensure common and transparent visibility over project progress. Structured, consistent project processes lead to a level of comfort and trust demonstrating forward progress between business owners and project teams.  Organizations will always lean towards governance as a means of determining ROI, IRR, anticipated spending, and of ensuring teams are not going rogue and managers are delivering on commitments.

Yet PMO’s can be destructive to the introduction of new project management standards such as Agile. These new processes do not do the same level of upfront planning, cost measuring, and operate with “just in time” documentation with a value-based approach of avoiding redundant actions, duplication of effort, and spending time on things that do not bring tangible value to the organization.  

Agile expects and embraces change with a variable scope and fixed cost/schedule. Agile can tell you the cost and time in advance, the actual scope and determination of “done” are iterative in nature and evolve throughout the lifetime of the project.

Other issues would include things like a weekly leadership meeting with executives other than the project sponsor/owner. Agile works off iterations/sprints determining velocity as progress is being made. A weekly status report expends extensive time and offers very little value to the project. Furthermore, the status reporting to organizational executives frustrates the leaders, project owner/sponsor, and project team as the constant intervention of executives in a project that they have a peripheral knowledge of creates more chaos and often becomes a defensive exercise. Defending a process that is working as planned creates a negative environment limiting the tolerance of risk and taking away one very powerful piece of XP programming where the intent is to “fail quickly” to better determine approaches that will be viable and support the overarching project.   

The involvement of a leadership group can shift authority from the product owner to higher level executives with a changing set of priorities and features forcing unnecessary rework and the potential for partially completed work products. These changes impact iteration schedules, increase commitment and time and can defeat the purpose and gain that comes from working in an Agile environment. One of the key tenets of Agile is the value of the team to self-organize and self-manage increasing intrinsic motivation and forward project momentum.   

PMO’s and organizations as a whole, need to be educated and to evolve to begin investing and supporting innovation for new processes and methodologies to assist in their ability to be successful. Each organization will have to self-evaluate to determine the best way, and what resources, it can commit to the support of new processes. Innovation requires change, and any attempts to implement new approaches have to be supported to provide the greatest opportunity for success.  

For example, an organization that “colocates” its project managers in a different location than the project teams or uses space in a call center as a collocation location providing each team member with three feet of total desk space to save money are in reality working against the process rather than supporting it. Following the letter and not the intent of the needs.  

Colocation is valuable when a team can talk, share, and pick up information through an osmotic observation. The team sharing and discussing has been proven to increase communication, knowledge, and reduce overall risks through shared awareness. Putting a collocated team in the middle of a call center where the surrounding sound is so loud that communication is not feasible is going through the motions without investing in the process. One “collocation” center provided each employee with earphones so they would be able to better concentrate on their work, and further ensuring that communication, shared information, and osmotic observation were optimized.  

Finally, the antidote to a successful Agile effort is micromanaging. This “tool” puts everyone on the defensive, cuts off communication, and prevents innovation while decreasing risk tolerance. Agile / Scrum Masters are servant leaders who are there to overcome team obstacles and “carry the water” for the team ensuring resources are available when needed essentially eliminating issues, not causing more. The tenet of servant leadership is so important that it is #5 in the 12 principles of Agile “Build projects around motivated people, give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.” If you want to ensure Agile does not work, avoid the investment, micromanage, and set up leadership status meetings on a weekly basis to confuse and convolute the issues.  

Innovation is creativity and needs to operate in a safe and secure environment where people can fail, learn, evolve, and address areas of improvement. Invest in the creation of a secure environment for a team, empower them, let them self-organize and be the professional expert and you suddenly have a recipe for success, not just for Agile, but for any process improvement approach.  

In the next article, we will delve into performance metrics, KPIs, and performance charting in Agile versus predictive to go over the variations that can be employed to provide an organization with support while also investing in success for the initiatives.  

 

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