As I think back on my coaching work in agile, the blogs I have written, the many discussions I have had and the presentations I have made, I think that all of these boil down into one very simple thing – my work is all about helping people understand the true nature of the software development business process and, thereby helping them to make better decisions.
One of the reasons I have proposed the concept of CAO (Chief Agile Officer) is for situations such as these where someone at the top level of the organization can arbitrate using the entire organizational as a lens to determine best courses of action. It sounds like you are both on the same organizational level so it would help to appeal to a higher management level in instances where two of the same level cannot come to a satisfactory conclusion.
One of the most enjoyable parts of my work and my life is delivering presentations or giving talks to outside groups. During one particular Q&A session I was asked a question along these lines – “If you had unlimited power in an organization, what would be the very first thing you would do to ensure agility?”
My answer, “Oh that is easy. The very first thing I would do is get rid of the Project Management Office.” At which I unfortunately took a pause. The collective gasp from the crowd filled that void and the ensuing murmur drowned out my next statement. You see, I was addressing a PMI group, and my statement proved to be provocative to say the least.
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I spent some time recently in a PMO meeting about project metrics. Seems that the big bosses want to create some service level agreements based on these metrics. The most interesting part of the meeting was sitting back and watching the process. As an Agile proponent I was amazed at the lunacy of central planning. Each project was on a master project list and resources (humans as I like to call them) were assigned based on their time estimates. These folks were scheduled months in advance. During the meeting, the leader of the PMO said that it was incumbent on the individual project manager to make sure that the assigned resource begins and ends their work as based on this long-term plan. Anyone who has spent any time in software development should realize that the odds of the working as slim to none. Funny thing, every PM in the room, even the head of the PMO, who has a background that includes Agile, thought that this was an appropriate methodology.
The kicker for me was when the head of the PMO stated that a successful project was one were estimated time was plus or minus 20%. A simple calculation told me that I was glad that I was not a PM responsible for a downstream project. If a resource is off by 20% on estimation of a large project, then my odds of getting the time I was promised from this resource is is low. Let’s say that the resource is committed to 160 hours of work on a project upstream of mine. This project can be successful even if this resource goes over 20% or 32 hours. If I only needed him for a week or two, I certainly will not get the work I need or something else will need to slip. Add scope creep, poor requirements, etc and you have a very small likelihood of success, hence the CHAOS report results for project success.
Continue reading Chaos to Waterfall to Agile – The Evolution of Software Development