Monday, 7 November 2011

Agile projects don't work - it's a puzzle!

While contemplating project management, Agile and different organisations I've come to the conclusion that there are certain companies who don't seem to be able to get to grips with any form of project management.

I've tried to understand what these companies have in common and I've suddenly had an epiphany.  They all have strong operational functions from which they grew into the larger organisations they are now.  For example, Airlines, Leisure and Logistics all developed from doing one thing very well time & time again.

They get everything about their operation.  

First of all they appreciate that you need capable people.  I've often thought that I could run a bar, manage an airport or run a courier firm better than the people who are serving me.  But I'm wrong.  These jobs take specialist skills that might not immediately be apparent but are vital all the same.  So these successful organisations attract & recruit the right people, give them the right training and provide on-going coaching & support.  

Second, they realise that a successful operation is only possible if you have the right systems and a clear and understandable process where everyone knows what's expected of them.  Only with these in place can you provide excellent customer services consistently time & time again.  

Finally they realise that you need to keep a track on things and define metrics that show you how you're meeting your organisational goals and if anything isn't working as it should.

Because they get it - they run successful companies that everyone admires.

But when it comes to projects - you know the activities that are going to maintain & improve their offerings, transform their company to realise unique selling points in the marketplace and grow revenues to maintain profits - they completely miss the point.

In every service industry that I've worked I've now realised that the attitude of senior managers to projects is exactly the same.  

  • Anyone can run a project so long as they're a subject matter expert
  • Planning, systems and processes just add to the time it takes to deliver
  • Don't need reporting or metrics to ensure benefits are nailed from the outset
  • Can't understand why their projects aren't as successful as their operations

Of course it seems obvious to us.  

The same disciplines that make the operational side of an organisation deliver are exactly the same as the ones needed to deliver projects successfully consistently, increase speed to market and maintain control of budgets and quality.  It doesn't matter which methodology you subscribe to the factors for a successful operation work just as well - be it Agile or Waterfall.

So if you're thinking - why don't my projects deliver as well as they should think to yourself - why are we so successful in delivering customer service? If you can understand that you know what you have to do to make your projects better.

So right now my challenge is to bring this insight to others - I suspect it's going to be a bigger task than I think.

Does anyone else have any other insights that might help me?