The Agile Values
This is the start of a mini-series about Agile Project Management. At the end of this Agile miniseries, you will have all the tools to decide on whether to implement Agile in your projects and what method to use.
Projectix just learned that he needs to become “agile” or look for a new job. He had been in a meeting with a business consultant and Bigboss, entrepreneur and founder of the “Hotair Ltd”. Bigboss, in his compassionate manner, left him with these 2 choices when sending him back to his office, so Projectix looks as if he would be fighting back his tears when dropping into Gurufix’ office.
Projectix: “Gurufix, do you have a minute?“
Gurufix: “Sure enough, where is the fire?“
Projectix: “Bigboss is in a meeting with some half-baked business consultant explaining him that all entrepreneurs now need to implement the Agile method in their business. So, he sent me back to my office telling me I must become “agile” or look for a new job. Now, you know, I need this job and I have no clue what he is talking about!”
Gurufix: “Oh, I see, another young consultant trying to sell his stuff. Lucky enough, Bigboss is not dumb, so he will come and talk to me before doing any harm. I bet, he’ll drop in as soon as this famous consultant left. But come in and have a seat so that I can get you up to speed and “agile” … or perhaps better not. We’ll see. “
Projectix: “First, I’d like to know if this Agile thing is the future of project management or a way into chaos. This consultant made some strange remarks. “
Agile in short
Gurufix: “If you don’t mind, I’d like to do a step back and start with the beginning. Concerning Agile, virtually everybody has an opinion, but only a few know what they are talking about.
The roots of Agile are in software development, but today it seems everybody wants to play Agile and the traditional, so called waterfall project management is completely outdated.
The basis of Agile is the Agile Manifesto from 2001. This piece of writing defines the values and methods of agile software development. “
Projectix: “So what you are saying is that some software nerds sat together, smoked I don’t know what, and jotted their ideas on paper. This became a kind of new hype for whatever reason and now, all the other poor project managers from all kind of different industries like Automotive, Services and Finance must use this to be taken seriously.“
Gurufix: “And it’s not only project managers, but also entrepreneurs ask themselves if they should manage their start-up project the agile way!
But let’s not judge too harsh and let me first give you an overview and shed some light into the dark. Then you will see, there is some good in the concept, but also risks and dangers along the way. “
Projectix: “And what is written in this manifesto? When I hear this word, Lenin and his communists come to my mind …“(grins)
What are the Agile values?
Gurufix: “Yeah, manifesto sounds strange. The signers wanted to set the agile values down in writing. To fix them once and for all and to show the difference to traditional project management, which at that time was much more inflexible than today. Take note of these:
- Individuals and interactions are more important than processes and tools
- Working software is more important than comprehensive documentation
- Customer collaboration is more important than contract negotiation
- Responding to change is more important than following a plan
In addition to the values, the manifesto contains 12 principles and methods standing for Agile project management. But I suggest to first have a closer look at the values before we tackle this.
Projectix: „Ok. I suppose these values are not so easy to put into action in any circumstances, isn’t it? “
The advantages and dangers of the Agile values
Gurufix: “You’re right. That’s why I now propose to look at them one by one. I believe, that many of these Agile values and principles have a positive aspect which should also be used in classical waterfall style project management approaches.
Individuals and interactions are more important than processes and tools.
To focus on the people and how they interact with each other is for sure a progress compared to the old style where people were a mere cost factor and unmotivated executor of orders.
But to throw away defined and established processes and tools by simple team decision is an invitation to despotism and chaos. I believe, a sense of proportion is needed, and this can only come from a responsible project manager or team leader. Otherwise, the project is going anywhere, and nobody will be able to implement continuous improvement over several projects.“
Projectix: “Understood. Put more focus on the people and optimise the processes. But avoid putting everything upside down just like this. “
Working software is more important than comprehensive documentation.
Gurufix: “Another lovely idea. When you analyse any software project available, you will easily see, pushing this principle to its limit will make you come a cropper. Make something work and not document how you did, this is a no-go. And that for several reasons:
If I do not document what I am doing, I will never get a meaningful continuous improvement process up and running. Means good-bye to Kaizen, PDCA and others!
In addition, I know hardly any company who would give their people the time to document their stuff correctly. If on top of this, you turn this into a matter of principle, everybody will say, “What do you want? It works, and I have to run to extinguish another fire!”. And the documentation falls prey to time pressure and hectic. Some weeks later, nobody remembers what had been done. That’s the fabric recalls are made of!“
Projectix: “Maybe that is the reason why they do permanent software updates to correct errors, just to discover that there are new errors in the latest update that have to be fixed by another update.”
Gurufix: “Exactly. And you as a project manager should not inflict this neither to your customer, nor to your team nor to the other stakeholders.”
Customer collaboration is more important than contract negotiation.
Gurufix: “Sounds great at first glance, but do not forget that, at the end of the day, there has to be money in the bank to pay the team and all the other contributors. From my experience, you should have a negotiated and signed contract first and then you start working! “
Projectix: “Yeah, and plenty of companies even have in their purchasing rules that a supplier is only allowed to start and spend money after the contracts are signed. Which, by the way, I found is a great way to put pressure on the purchasers not to drag on the negotiations until eternity. “
Gurufix: “Nonetheless, it is a no-brainer that it is important to establish an intensive collaboration with the customer. “
Responding to change is more important than following a plan.
Gurufix: “That is also a pure software industry thing and, pretty useful in an industry where new techniques, technologies and changes in components are every day’s business. We have been talking about software updates, haven’t we? (laughs)
Anywhere else, oh, oh, oh … the costs are exploding, milestones get pushed back and the project goes belly up.
I’ve had good success to replace hectic activity by analytical thinking and purposeful changes, whenever hell broke loose and change requests pattered on my project like rain in an Indian monsoon.”
Projectix (sighs): “Oh my goodness! That’s a lot of stuff to think about. I feel my head spinning.”
Gurufix: “Seems like you need a break. (Looks on his watch) Wow already lunch-time. C’mon, let’s have lunch together. Today it’s on me. And this afternoon, we’ll go through the principles so that you get the full picture.”
* * * to be continued * * *
Now its your turn!
What do you think about the first episode of this story? Agile is an important stepping stone in today’s entrepreneur’s project management, as it allows to reduce the effort of planning and stay more flexible to react to unforeseen changes. But, as you have seen, there are some hiccups that a business owner needs to consider.
In the second part, we will dive into the Agile principles and see what Gurufix thinks about them. But there is more to come. At the end of this Agile miniseries, you will have all the tools to decide on whether to implement Agile in your projects and what method to use.