Sunday, March 22, 2009

There is no conductor in Agile

Recently I have been coaching a number of SAP project managers on how to manage their projects utilizing agile practices and principals. I have been successful helping them find the value of daily stand-ups, time boxed iterations, retrospectives, and involving the team in estimating and planning. I have even been able to do a little bit of adaptive planning via using a high level Gantt chart for milestones, then doing detailed planning in each iteration, and managing intra iteration work with burndown charts and ETCs – rather than tracking percent complete. However, these project s still don’t feel "agile" to me. In order to make it clear why, I have to return to the jazz vs. classical music analogy. While writing my blog entry about planning for improvisation my colleague Jeff made the comment, "everyone in the orchestra takes all their cues from The Conductor. In jazz, everyone in the band feeds off one another."

This is my next hurdle to overcome with these teams. The projects are still based on a hierarchical project team structure and a clearly defined "leader". Without leadership things quickly devolve into anarchy. But on the other hand, rigid command structures seem to stifle much of the energy and drive one finds from using agile practices.

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