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.   

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