A project manager, Dave, is struggling with his project. His organization is not interested in using agile. Agile has a bad name, given their three-time attempt to adopt agile. (I'll address that problem in another Pragmatic Manager.) That's fine. Agile is not for everyone.
However, Dave knows that prototyping to reduce the project's technical risk is a good idea. He also knows that if he could release something—not quite anything, but something useful—his project would have a better chance of success. That would reduce his schedule risk. (Yes, his managers want everything yesterday.)
Dave wants to iterate on prototypes, and build increments of value. Seems reasonable to me. Seems reasonable to him.
He's having a little problem selling his idea to his management. Dave knows his management wants him to manage risks. Because agile has a bad name in that organization, no one wants to know about iterations or increments.
I asked him if he could use the words “prototypes” or “proof of concept” to avoid the use of iterative. Yes, he could.
I then asked him if he could try the terms “mini-release” or “release enough to see if our customers like it” to describe his increments. Yes, he could.
Dave is now using iterations and increments. One of the ways he's managing risk is by asking people to make everything small. He asks the team to deliver small prototypes: the first thing they can imagine to see if it will work.
He asks the team to deliver small increments. They called these deliveries “mini-releases.” A few weeks ago, they were able to deliver two mini-releases in one week. That was fast for them. Normally, they have mini-releases every six to eight weeks. See a picture of Dave's project to the left.
I wouldn't—and Dave wouldn't either—call his project agile. On the other hand, Dave and the team are managing their risks. And, they're not triggering any bad feelings about what to call the project.
If you, too, are not ready to or planning to use agile, you can manage your risks. Use iterative approaches for prototypes. Consider incremental approaches to deliver some value sooner rather than wait for the entire project to be complete.
Agile is not the answer in many circumstances. You might even be in a situation where agile is wrong for you. You have choices for how you manage risks in your project. Take advantage of any risk management approaches that will work for you.
Is 2017 your year to improve some of your skills? I'm offering these public workshops:
Writing Workshop 1 helps you build a daily writing habit. Past participants have loved this workshop. I have room for just two more writers.
I'm offering a new workshop: Writing Workshop 2: Secrets of Successful Non-Fiction Writers. This workshop is for those people who have the writing habit and want to be more successful. You can still get early bird registration until Dec 23, 2016.
The Practical Product Owner workshop helps you learn to build roadmaps and the stories that help the team deliver working product on a regular cadence. You can still get early bird registration until Dec 23, 2016. Past participants have appreciated the pragmatic approach to learning how to create rolling wave deliverable based roadmaps and small stories.
Gil Broza and I are offering the Influential Agile Leader in Toronto May 9-10, 2017. Sign up now and reserve your spot.
Are you new to the Pragmatic Manager newsletter? See previous issues.
If you like the idea of romance between smart technical women and just-as-interesting men, I'm starting to write romance in my spare (!) time. See Johanna's Fiction.
Till next time,
© 2016 Johanna Rothman