My Project World Business Analyst World talk: from waterfall to agile

waterfall to agile If you believe that change is the only constant, ever so often, we need to push ourselves out of our comfort zone. We need to tell ourselves, “I am not entirely sure how this is going to play out. But we need to do something different to achieve (insert your business objective here) because the current way of doing things isn’t doing a great job of keeping us one step ahead of our competition.”

When I was invited to speak at the Project World Business Analyst World in Moncton this year, I chose to talk about my experiences adopting lean and agile tools and moving away from waterfall where it makes sense. Now, delivering a session at any conference typically follows a similar routine. Submissions from speakers are invited. A selection committee reviews and selects the speakers. The speaker prepares a PowerPoint. At the conference, the talk is dominated by the speaker with questions from the audience sprinkled in. This is beginning to look like a waterfall approach.

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Transforming from waterfall to agile

FlowIntroducing agility into traditional systems development processes is never easy. Firstly, you have got to want to change. Secondly, you need to have a vision of what to change to. Finally, you need the tenacity to forge ahead in the face of stiff resistance. It is usually the third that is the most difficult journey to undertake. The hardest part of the journey is during the transition wherein you show how to bring agility into executing projects. You are walking the fine line between traditional methodology and incrementally introducing change.

One of the challenges during the transition is the question,” how do I know if the project is on track?” Despite all the conversations around introducing agility, when the rubber hits the road, it always comes back to “are the tasks on the critical path late?” or “what’s the project CPI and SPI?” or a variation thereof. Critical path and earned value concepts are deeply ingrained into our psyche. It is not easy to let go. (continue reading…)

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The power of pull

Example of an electronic Kanban boardJoe sighed and returned to his desk. He had been waiting for Jane to provide him with information for the last two days. If Jane could only take a few hours to do it, he could get on with his work and check it off his list. Instead he would now have to wait for a week before Jane can even look at it. He would just have to tell Smith this project deliverable will be delayed. The customer is probably not going to be happy about it, but there is nothing he could do about it. Reaching his desk, he put this work aside and stared at the pending work list wondering what he could do next that can be completed. The list continued to grow. We need more people, he thought as he eyed his manager walking towards him.

Jane shook her head in frustration. She wanted to help Joe out; in fact she had been scheduled to work on Joe’s stuff, but was pulled away on other priority work. Glancing at the work requests piling up, she thought, we need more people.

Donald, the CEO, sat staring at the phone. He just got off the phone with one of the customers. The project team had missed the delivery for the third time. And this was not the only project that was in trouble. “This is crazy. What”, he thought, “were we doing wrong? Why can’t we seem to get our act together and deliver projects to the plan? We should plan better. I better find Smith and find out what’s going on.”

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Scope creep? Bring it on

Ask any project manager the reasons why projects fail and one of the reasons cited will definitely be scope creep. But is scope creep really that bad? I don’t think so. Your view of the scope creep will depend on how you manage projects. You can manage projects as a contract or you can collaborate.

I think there will be a scope creep when there is a contract between the solution provider and the consumer. For example, it is notorious in the construction industry. In fact, some contractors want the consumer to change the scope in the middle of the project. That’s their way of making money; it is not like you are going to change contractors in the middle of the project. But if both parties collaborate, then scope creep as a reason for project failure just melts away. (continue reading…)

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I'm Charan Atreya, author of Project Management - The Kanban Way. I ensure successful strategy execution by improving business processes to increase throughput and eliminate waste. I manage projects at J.D. Irving, Ltd. The views expressed on this blog are my own and do not reflect the opinions of the organization I work for now or have worked in the past.
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