Hi there! If you’re new to agile project management, you may be confused as to how it fits into your organization’s software delivery equation.
When I first started with agile projects, I found myself reverting to my tried-and-tested, waterfall methods of delivery.
For example, I continued to talked about controlling the project using due dates and documentation – which is extremely “un-agile”.
My more agile colleagues (including some Certified ScrumMasters) used to tell me things like:
“Let it go – trust that the team will self-organize and get the job done.”
“We have a daily stand-up to track progress, there’s no need for detailed tracking by due dates.”
To be honest, for me, this took a WHOLE LOT of getting used to.
And if you’re a Project Manager used to large-scale enterprise IT delivery, you’ll know what I mean.
Trust that the team will deliver? Right … tell me what deliverables will come out by when!
Given the above, and to aid “Waterfall Project Managers” like me transition into agile delivery, I wanted to write an article about the four flavors of agile out there in the market.
Turns out there are different ways we can deliver agile, from pure agile through to more “hybrid” methods.
Let’s investigate more in the following.
In my mind, if we really look at it, I think there are only four flavors of agile project delivery available, as shown in the diagram below.
You’ll notice that agile requires a balance of two forces, what I called “control” and “flexibility”.
Control. Traditional project management emphasizes control and discipline. High control project deliveries look at due dates and deliverables as the key metrics in a project. If a date slips, you’re shot. If a deliverable is of poor quality or not signed off, you’re shot. Large-scale Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) projects have traditionally been delivered in this manner.
Flexibility. Proponents of agile methodologies are all for flexibility. They want the agile team to self-organize, trust that each team member will deliver what they need to do without too much supervision. And if they run into trouble, they’ll raise up impediments to the Scrum Master.
Flavor 1: Pure Agile
Let’s look at the first flavor called “Pure Agile”. Here, we have high levels of Flexibility and low levels of control – the ideal environment for agile to flourish.
All the standard agile techniques you’ll learn at Scrum trainings will apply here.
Define the Product Backlog, sprints, burndown charts.
Run the daily stand-ups and the ScrumMaster removes impediments.
Run the Sprint Retrospectives to learn lessons and improve delivery, etc. etc.
All these apply and work well in a “Pure Agile” model.
Flavor 2: Pure Waterfall
A waterfall-based, traditional delivery would be premised on low Flexibility and high levels of Control.
Here, the Project Manager tracks work streams, due dates and deliverables.
Project Status Reports are churned out daily, weekly or monthly, as the case may be.
Scope, cost and time are controlled very tightly and if there changes in scope, things need to flow through a rigid change control process.
Flavor 3: Hybrid Agile
A “Hybrid Agile” flavor is anchored on high levels of Flexibility and Control.
At first sight, it seems a misnomer that you can have both high Flexibility and Control.
But if you look in the industry, many organizations are running this “Hybrid Agile” model.
What they do is to carve out e.g. large-scale enterprise projects (e.g. Core Banking system implementation) to be done by traditional waterfall methods.
Then identify “agile pockets” of delivery e.g. for certain batches of standalone functionalities or reports.
So, in essence, both waterfall and agile run together.
There are also views that waterfall can be applied earlier in a project, e.g. during planning and design phases, whilst agile methods kick in when development and testing iterations or cycles come in.
Flavor 4: Project Chaos
I call the last flavor “Project Chaos” because if we have low levels of Control and Flexibility, then … the project is basically in a big mess.
The truth is, some projects do land in this spot – and the tell-tale signs tend to be things like, e.g. poor documentation, no due dates, and a lack of motivation or commitment amongst all teams.
If you sense your project is in this territory, it’s time to bring in a Project Turnaround Specialist or Consultant!
I hope the above has given you an interesting perspective on the four flavors of agile project delivery.
The truth is, out in the market, agile is being implemented in different ways.
Software companies like Facebook, Google, etc. may lend themselves to some very “Pure Agile” methods.
Other traditional firms like e.g. a manufacturing company or a bank, may have to revert to “Pure Waterfall” or “Hybrid Agile” delivery modes, particularly for large-scale IT transformation programs.
If you wish to find out more about agile project delivery, feel free to contact me over here.
Until next time, have fun learning about agile methodologies!