Mindset Shift — To understand Agile

#1 My goal Is To Get This Project Done On Time And On Budget

Project managers like missions. They are typically measured on whether they delivered their project on time, on budget and on scope. Unfortunately, these measures don’t necessarily correlate to the business goals and often lead to short-term, suboptimal thinking and approaches. The goal should be to deliver business value!

#2Projects Are Unique

Thinking of projects as unique prevents us from seeing the work of the organization as a steady stream of mostly similar requests. While each request may be for a unique feature or solution, each request can be satisfied by the development of some sort of solution.

#3More Projects Started Means More Projects Done

There is a belief that starting more projects means that more projects will be completed, even if we don’t have enough people to staff all the projects. Running all these projects concurrently doesn’t get things done faster, it slows all projects down and reduces the delivery of value. More projects in flight means less projects delivered. As they say in Kanban land, “Stop starting and start finishing”.

#4 People Are Resources That Can Be Fractionally Assigned To Projects

There is a role in most organizations of a ‘resource manager’ who tracks and assigns people to different projects. This task may be done by the department manager, or it may be centralized to a single resource manager across many departments.

#5Projects Have A Beginning And End

When we see the world as a series of temporary initiatives that start and stop, we miss out on efficiencies. There is a significant cost to starting something new and closing it out when it is done.

#6Project Scope Is Monolithic

Another downside to project thinking relates to project managers being measured by timeline, budget, and scope. Though the individual features and deliverables vary in their contribution to business benefit, all features and deliverables are in scope and that is how the project manager is measured.

Shifting for Success with Agile Project Management

To maximize the delivery of business value, we need to transcend project thinking and embrace an Agile Mindset.

#1 Move towards Value Stream Thinking

If we step back and view the activity of the organization from a distance, we are continuously catering to business needs or requests. Each request may be slightly different, but combined they represent “work” that needs to be completed. This is the value stream of the organization. The value stream looks more like a factory than a bunch of one-off projects.

#2 Focus on Business Value Delivery

Shifting from thinking of unique and monolithic projects to a value stream is the first step. Breaking these bigger projects down into smaller requests or features is the second step. We can then prioritize these smaller requests by business value, and deliver each one to the customer quickly to get a faster return on our investment.

#3Establish Stable Cross-Functional Teams As The Basic Building Block

Rather than spin up new teams for every project, agile organizations build strong, high performing and long-standing teams. Planning is much simpler with stable teams since they have a track record of delivery.

#4Work To Capacity

Rather than optimistically starting a bunch of new projects and ‘pushing’ work to the teams, Agile organizations let the teams work to capacity. When teams have the capacity, they ‘pull’ work from the prioritized list of smaller features. Context switching and multitasking is reduced, which results in more productivity and throughput.

Key Learnings:

Thinking in terms of projects inhibits us from understanding and implementing Agile effectively and achieving the benefits of productivity and business agility. Delivering large projects actually brigs down with it value.

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