More Talking to Project Managers
Here is my last post for Artem’s Agile Software Development… republished here for the benefit of my Leading Agile readers.
Last post we explored some ways to introduce agile concepts to traditional project managers and how to make a case for agile in a way that has a chance to really resonate. We explored how to discuss time, cost, and scope… talked a little about dealing with uncertainty… and a little about the factors that are really constraining our projects.
If you are interested in catching up with the conversation, go back and take a look at my post “How to Talk to Project Managers” at http://agilesoftwaredevelopment.com/blog/mcottmeyer/how-talk-project-man…
This past Tuesday, I was up in Vancouver doing a workshop on these very topics. About half the class self-identified as a PMP certified project manager… the others were either uncertified project managers or development leads. Most of the folks rated themselves a three or four (out of ten) on their agile expertise. We had a few folks in the class that rated their knowledge in the five to eight range, and after doing the course, I agreed with their assessment.
Most of the people in the course were there to learn more about agile or to learn how to sell agile in their organizations. They wanted to understand the agile value proposition and how to go back and communicate agile in a way that really resonated with their businesses. We were off to a good start.
My talk generally followed the outline from “How to talk to Project Managers”. People were taking notes and seemed engaged… but, sometime around lunch things started getting more difficult. After laying the foundation around the triple constraints, uncertainty, and project drivers; I had hoped to move into agile principles and project management techniques. What I found is that I had left out a critical component of the discussion.
I had not addressed how their organizations were currently structured and the barriers this would introduce to agile adoption. I started talking about teamwork and collaboration and they were thinking about matrixed organizations, task sequencing, and resource management… I had needed to address this issue head on and my failure to do this caused the class to spin a little out of control.
We ended up spending a great deal of time talking about merits of generalization and the challenges associated with specialization. We talked about how to deal with agile teams when some degree of specialization is required. We explored what it meant to be a team and what creating teams would mean for their organizations. We talked about the differences between iterative and incremental development versus agile development. We explored what it means to be a project manager in an agile organization.
What I learned was that there is a bunch more we needed to talk about before we could move to agile principles and practices. We needed to introduce a few more concepts before we started talking about agile project management. We needed to address matrixed organizations, building teams with specializing generalists, and the role of the project manager on an agile team.
Here is some thinking I’ve done on these topics over the past year:
Happy reading. Please comment on how you are talking to your organization about agile and what messages you have found that resonate. If I use something you submit in a talk, I make sure to credit your contribution.
we are organizing on-line meetings to review concepts and books. We read 2 chapters of a book and in the meeting we talk about it.
We also use an internal Wiki.