Knowing When an Agile Project is Done
I meet a number of new-to-agile folks who worry that an agile project might never be done. They use air quotes around the word “project” when they refer to agile projects.
Just beause you use iterations or kanban for an agile project doesn’t mean it doesn’t have release criteria or it doesn’t get to done. It does! And, sometimes the project gets to done faster than you might think. Let’s listen in on a conversation between Vernon, an agile project manager and Alicia, a new-to-agile product owner.
“Alicia, this is our last iteration, right? We met our performance criteria this past iteration. The marketing collateral is complete. As soon as these last two features are complete, we will have met our release criteria. Do you agree?”
“Vernon, I don’t know. There is always more I could ask the team to do.”
“You could ask the team to do more. That’s right. And, we’ve met the release criteria for this release. Is the value in the backlog worth continuing this project now?”
It’s possible the people who make project portfolio decisions will make that end-the-project decision for the team. But it’s more likely that the product owner will make the initial decision first. Here, you see the agile project manager coaching the new product owner by asking a question.
Every project, agile or not, needs release criteria. Release criteria tell you what done means for the project. What if you feel you need to change your criteria? If your criteria aren’t too far off from the original criteria, sure, change them.
And, if you discover that your criteria are leading you to a totally different project, stand back and make another decision. If you haven’t released yet, please, release and start a new project with new release criteria. If you have released features, declare victory, release the old project and start a new project.
Maybe your release criteria were wrong, or just not right. You get to change your mind. You discover this not-quite-rightness much earlier in the project than in other lifecycles.
That’s the point of agile. The transparency you get with agile helps you realize anything that’s not quite right much earlier.
Agile projects end, just like other projects. The difference is that you finish features and have the option of interim releases as you proceed. You might even discover you are finished earlier than you anticipated. Isn’t that a lovely discovery?
Join my workshops in London, May 16 and 17
If you would like to learn more about starting your project right, join me in London May 16. I’ll be leading an interactive workshop, Starting Your Agile Project Right!
On May 17, I’ll be leading an experiential coaching Master Class, Coaching for Leaders: Exploring All Coaching Stances. You can take just one workshop or join me for both at a substantial discount.
I hope you decide to join me.
Where Johanna is Speaking
I’ll be at Let’s Test, in Sweden the week of May 20, 2013.
I’ll be at Agile Development/Better Software the week of June 2, 2013 in Las Vegas.
Do you know about the AYEQuartet and ChangeArtistry 2013? It’s open to those of you who have studied experientially.
Are you new to the Pragmatic Manager newsletter? See previous issues here.
I’ve been writing articles like crazy this year. I’ll be posting the recent articles over the next week or two. If you see one that interests you and you would like me to speak about it, let me know.
I keep my blogs current with my writings: Managing Product Development, Hiring Technical People, and Create an Adaptable Life.
copyright 2013 Johanna Rothman