Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Can you just stop?

Lately I have found myself in conversations about how and when projects stop and transitioning a team to allow them to work on the next project.

This generally happens when we're discussing the work "not done" as it relates to a project. It sometimes comes up as it relates to "gating", and in some cases as it relates to year-end performance reviews.

I recently read some agile42 slides presented by my peer Dave Sharrock. The slides can be found here

The presentation talks about the need for quick feedback loops to gather information.

This got me thinking..  How do corporate systems actually DEAL with this information!.

From the Agile Manifesto....

Simplicity--the art of maximizing the amount
of work not done--is essential.

This phrase often comes up when we talk with team members and Product Owners about the concept of minimizing scope in a specific story, not "gold-plating" and discussions about emergent technology. We often discuss YAGNI (you aint' going to need it). and other such terms with teams.

But what about the enterprise reporting systems, motivation systems, H.R. systems, Project Management Systems, and Gating processes?

Let's talk about a potential situation that might happen and can make agile transition difficult. It may come from my past ;->

Here's the scenario.....

  • You are trying to "switch to agile" from a "waterfall" environment.
  • There are Gates involved and people have spent hundreds of hours completing them to start work on the project.
  • You have started the "Big Project" (whatever that means to you)
  • A team is formed (or if you are lucky you even have one that is ready to accept a project).
  • Before you started the "agile" path, initiation of projects took from 3 months to 1 year to complete.
  • You start a really amazing team and get stakeholders involved by bringing them to Sprint Reviews (all that stuff you are supposed to do from a Scrum perspective).
  • 3 Sprints in you manage to get the actual eventual users there and they say... "Why are you guys working on this?  Our stuff has already changed so much we will NEVER use this".

In your company....
  • Can people bring this up without fearing for their jobs?
  • Would people force the project through anyway because of a Gate or Process?
  • Can you consider Value Delivery instead of Work Performed as the driver of your determination process?
  • Do you have the ability to change path (pivot) based on empirical evidence? 
  • Can you stop when you are no longer delivering value and let your team move on to the next most valuable project for the company or client?
  • Could you quickly change to something that will be valuable to your clients that they are desperate to get?
  • Do you have a mechanism to measure value delivery instead of time spent or progress toward a plan?

Ask yourself ... Does your system allow adjustment so that the team can deliver the next most valuable thing to the organization or does it make that difficult for the people involved.

Consider talking with a great agile coach or company to figure out what you might do next in this situation and how that might be done in your organization. I am of course partial to coaching as an appropriate route.

Just discussing this in your organization might work for you...

Either way.. please talk about it.