I Want Control

WRITTEN BY Mike Cottmeyer

As an Agile Project Leader, I feel like I have lost control.

In my last post “The Road to Agility”, my original premise was that in order to be trusted, we have to be trustworthy. To earn the trust of our organizations, teams have to consistently deliver. To deliver regularly, we have to have structure and control.

I wimped out. I substituted the word discipline for control because I was concerned I would lose my audience. I was afraid people would react to the word control and stop listening.

I lost control, now I want it back.

As an Agile Project Leader, why should I be scared to use the word control? As a community, are we scared to be in control of our projects? I sure hope not.

But wait… we want collaboration, not control…. right? Control suggests authority. It suggests top down management. It suggests all those outdated project strategies we have seen fail time and time again.

Maybe when we talk about control, we just need to be specific about what we are controlling. Are we controlling people or are we controlling processes? Are we trying to control using predictive methods or recognizing the need for empiricism. These things matter when we talk about being in control.

As I write this, I am on a plane to Denmark. I sure hope my pilot is in control of this aircraft. Does that mean he knows every pocket of turbulence or mechanical issue we might encounter? Of course not. I do expect him to know where he is, to measure frequently to make sure we are on track, and adjust if we are not. I have to trust he will know we are off course long before we find ourselves out of fuel and having to land short of our destination.

Control on an agile project is all about visibility, inspection, and adaptation. You need to know what you have delivered and what is left to do. You need to know where you are at all times in relation to your goal. When you adjust, you need to be able to understand and communicate the impact to where we thought we were going.

Just like the pilot relies on a skilled support team to help him stay in control of the aircraft, the agile leader needs to collaborate with the team to maintain control of the project. It is not either collaboration or control, we must have both.

Don’t be afraid to be in control of your projects. Your teams and your business owners will thank you for it.

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