Agile Project Management is one of the buzz words for the past few years. It’s based on the success in agile (software) development and lean management in general. But, does it actually work?
Agile is usually used as a synonym for scrum. You have 5 or so team members in a room or around a whiteboard and discuss / agree on the next deliverable. The standard is 2 or 3 weeks for such a sprint and the effort involved is measured in story points. Assuming you know the amount of story points in the project you can measure how fast you go and depending on the success rate (eg completing the stories in a sprint) the project manager can easily tell if the project is on time. ideally the reports tell the PM much more. He can see which area the shortfall is and mitigate the problem with a targeted approach. During a sprint the team gets together regularly for a short standup and inform each other on progress or hold ups. This allows early intervention. At the end of a sprint the team gets together including the customer and show the deliverable. This also allows early detection if the customer is satisfied and the team delivered on expectations.
At work we had some visitors last week. They did a workshop in parallel to guiding a project team through a week of change. I was fortunate to be part of the “peripheral” and observe.
The project content and deliverable at weeks end was not the main thing as you may expect from a project. At least not for me. No, the result of the week was actually summed up during a presentation in the middle. Joe Justice of Wikispeed said:
I’d like to share 2 stories that happened yesterday. 2 stories that have a common theme. 2 stories that mean don’t be afraid to ask.
For years I’m playing social football. We have a pretty good team and most importantly we have a lot of fun. Yesterday we started with the bare 11 where our striker Dave carried a strained achilles tendon and wasn’t full of running. Midway through the first half we “lost” another Dave with a pulled hamstring. And before halftime a pinched calve muscle made me hobbling, too. At half time we debated briefly what to do as we had only Dave’s son Joel at the sideline. We decided it doesn’t hurt asking the other team “The Spikes” if they would be happy considering Joel was 23 and we are playing over 45’s. When I asked Pete, the captain, he agreed despite some of his team mates opposing it. Look, I said to him, Joel is a referee not a player himself. If you are not happy, that’s okay. So, they let him play. We had a much more enjoyable game with equal numbers and a 3 all result was a fair outcome.
When I was still at High School my Dad explained to me the difference between efficient and effective. Or in plain English, doing things right compared to doing the right things. I could see value in both and debated about what is better. It took me some time and a fairly extreme example to understand the importance of the distinction.
These days lean manufacturing, lean thinking, and lean approaches are the holy grail. Since Toyota became the standard in efficiency there are few organisations that don’t follow that herd. And boy, there are some amazing savings to be made. Having the right structure in place and everybody knows what they should be doing it is like cogs and gears churning along at full steam.
It has been some time that I’ve talked about GTD (Getting things done) and in the next few days I’m on a discovery what other people do in that space. Nothing was closer then to re-align my thoughts and habits on the topic as preparation. Hence I’m sharing this with you and welcome your feedback!
Years ago I had 2 baskets on my desk: “In” and “Out”. Life was easy, incoming tasks usually came by internal mail or were created on a notepad as a result of meetings and phone calls. Everything ended up in the “Inbox”. I sorted those tasks daily to these criterias