Tuesday, August 31, 2010

10 Agile Strengths

Just to be fair to both side of the agile issue, my first post on agile "top ten" was about agile weaknesses, though I broke my own rule and started on a negative theme. However, as regular readers of this blog know, under the right circumstances, I am an agile proponent. Just check the sidebar for all the agile articles on this blog.

So, here's my top ten reasons why agile has worked for me [of course, the agile community has the manifesto that is the community wisdom on this]. And because something is on this list does not mean it can't also be on a more conventional methodology list:

1. Agile is a "best value" method: it's doctrine is centered on value and accomplishment for the customer and user, not so much adherence to cost and schedule--though the sponsor's investment can not be exceeded, so cost is at least capped

2. Agile respects the urgency and importance of priorities conveyed by the customer/user, most prominently by incremental delivery and flexible sequencing

3. Agile respects the power of emergence and iteration to drive innovation, provided the customer buys-in

4. Agile puts the customer in the driver's seat for the value agenda of the project.  By doing so, the project is more "Juran" than "Deming" in its quality orientation.  The PM does not forfeit the responsibility to manage the application of resources and the risks of accomplishment--thus the PM's mission: deliver the most value for the invested resources, taking reasonable risks to do so

5. Agile is more bottom-up than top-down as a matter of doctrine.  There's a bit of the "wisdom of the crowds" in the way that small teams are given opportunity to find solutions, and there's a bit of small unit tactics--as practiced by the largest command and control organization of them all....the U.S. military--that put a lot of minute to minute decision making with the bottom of the WBS.

6. Agile has the potential to more effectively align business planning-and-execute cycles with project cycles.  Business cycles are often scheduled well in advance and are often calendar driven [it's July, so let's kick-off the AOP process for the next FY].  Projects, with their uniquely different scope, one to the next, benefit from agile alignment with the business.

7. Consistent performance by small teams of participants that work together continuously is highly valued. Such consistency means that PMs can depend on throughput benchmarks that are statistically meaningful.  Benchmarks then enable throughput accounting.

8. Agile respects the objective behind earned value: Say up front what you are going to do, and then do it.  No partial credit.  Either it works or it doesn't.  Of course, EV is best applied at the time-box level since agile doctrine allows and encourages personal flexibility within a time-box.

9. Agile respects the common sense that all requirements can not be known at the outset, particularly when the outcomes are intangible and subject to an evolving understanding.

10. Agile gets the benefit stream flowing sooner, so the time displacement between need and delivery is manageable at lower risk.

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