When Agile Might Work for Large Projects

When Agile Might Work for Large Projects

When Agile Might Work for Large Projects
When Agile Might Work for Large Projects

 

Back in 2015 I wrote an article “Why Agile Doesn’t Work for Large Projects.” I had no idea of the impact and the heat of the discussion that would be generated. The article has been read 100s of thousands of times, has over 20K likes, typically from stakeholders and teams that have delivery responsibilities but are not development. But there are 2000+ comments too, with the majority opposed to the premise, but plenty of defenders too. The opposition seems mostly from agile development teams.

So why does the article highlight a schism of perspective, and often inflame passion? I believe because of the unfortunate human condition of not being able to see the issue from someone else’s perspective. The Agile developer might look at the article and decide that I don’t know what I’m talking about, but the stakeholder or project sponsor does, because they see the program differently from the developer; their issues will be quite different. 

 The Scrum Master might feel insulted that I have maligned them as an individual, but fails to see that the comments have a broader aim than just one person. Just to be clear, I am a Transformation Lead, Agile Coach, and Scrum Master, so (hopefully) know something about what I write. I stand a good chance of successful delivery of a project/program of any size (assuming I have a wide enough remit), but then I have had the advantage of my career history and 30 year’s experience. I will run development as Agile at every chance I get. But I’m not writing as a commentary about me, but about what I see at my clients and within the IT industry.

Subsequent to my article, more attention has been focused on the issues of delivery of large programs, using SAFe, NEXUS, or other approaches. I use such models myself when the Agile Maturity is high enough. But success still depends on having an informed team-of-teams, all aligned and educated to the approach, mission and strategy. This is more my focus than delivery of the sprint stories. The best frameworks will fail when they are run by a flawed program, and flawed programs are more the norm than the exception.Subsequent to my article, more attention has been focused on the issues of delivery of large programs, using SAFe, NEXUS, or other approaches. 

 I use such models myself when the Agile Maturity is high enough. But success still depends on having an informed team-of-teams, all aligned and educated to the approach, mission and strategy. This is more my focus than delivery of the sprint stories. The best frameworks will fail when they are run by a flawed program, and flawed programs are more the norm than the exception.

The CEB (Corporate Executive Board – Now part of Gartner) published an “Agile Suitability Matrix”, which took the project sponsor through a spreadsheet that classified their answers to the program characteristics. It then calculated risk/exposure and gave an indication whether the project should be agile or not. Here is another (smaller) version, with 20 criteria. The factors aren’t about the skill of the developer/PM/SM, but more strategic. This is just another illustration that the questions on agile delivery are at a Program level, not at the skill of an individual.

If you have some depth in program delivery, you will know that what will most likely trip you up is dependencies, especially where you have little control. Individuals probably manage well for what they can control, so a development manager might with some success deliver code, but the PM is still struggling to get all the vendors to deliver when they promised. Without insight into how important your goals are to the vendor, so you will get delivery based on their priorities, not yours. And all the other competing programs in a large organization are all making the case they should be higher on the priority list, hence the need for Portfolio Management.

So before seeing every issue through your own lens, attempt to see what might be happening in the orbit around your individual world, and then you might gain some valuable perspective. Like this article if you wish, or “flame on” in your comments, as dialogue is always better than diatribe. Good luck!

The Author : Stuart Hamilton

Stuart Hamilton

About :
To structure the delivery of complex, large-scale transformational projects while managing and coaching multidisciplinary and matrixed teams. Day 1 assistance to develop strategy, roadmap, and execution plan, then execute and manage the implementation.
Previous Post Next Post

Comments