By Melanie Franklin
It is my job is to design and implement Agile transformations for my customers. This transformation consists of lots of different flavours of Agile, mixed up in a hybrid model: Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe); AgilePM; Scrum.
In each transformation, I come across the same issues, and I thought it would be useful to share these in case you have a similar experience.
1. Considered, not blanket use of Agile working
Being Agile means being flexible enough to react to feedback and amend, alter and change direction as needed to address the feedback that customers internal and external are giving you about your ideas. However, feedback comes at a cost. It requires effort to build a collaborative environment that allows those doing the work to demonstrate their ideas to their customers and follow a process to ensure feedback is given, reviewed and acted upon. So it is important to realise that an Agile approach is not appropriate for every situation.
The cost of generating and acting on this feedback has to be set against the value that regular customer feedback provides to the project. If your work is stable, consistent and the main criteria for success is that it is completed as quickly as possible, do you need to keep consulting on what it includes? If everyone agrees up front exactly what they want, how much they want to spend and when they want something, why apply a more Agile approach?
2. Planning still happens, it's just different in Agile
‘We don’t plan’ is a common misunderstanding about Agile environments. We do not plan in detail up front, because it would be wasted effort if we believe that our situation is subject to change. So some Agile protagonists argue that Agile is cheaper and faster because we don’t have to pay for teams to plan rather than do.
However, this isn’t true. A really effective Agile environment will see lots of planning taking place in response to feedback from customers. We save costs by not having to throw away existing plans and pay for re-planning, but we still have to plan what we are going to do, how it is going to be done and share the results of our planning with other teams who may be doing complementary work to our own.
3. We don’t need Project Managers in Agile
This is a very emotive topic because a number of Agile practitioners will argue that we don’t need managers to guide the work because the teams doing the work are self-directed and empowered to take any action needed to get the work done.
However, in my experience effective Agile environments do have Project Managers who can help teams navigate through the huge numbers of decisions that they have to take. Agile environments demand a very focused, engaged approach because of the flexibility necessitating very frequent decisions about what direction to take next and what work to prioritise next.