Saturday, November 19, 2005

Agile Management

 I’m sure you have seen the Agile Dilbert cartoon. I’ve been sent this cartoon from a couple people at work and now Javier is looking for my comments…So here goes.

The comic highlights that management doesn’t seem to understand the business impact of agile methods. There is a strong, embedded culture in management for fixed feature, fixed budget, and fixed timeline projects. In most organizations, this culture comes from the budget process. The budget process is similar to the waterfall method for software development. You define your objectives for the following year (scope), determine the hard costs to achieve those objectives (costs), track the budget through out the year(deadline) and tie a bonus for staying within budget.

What happens at the end of the year? If there is money left in the budget, managers find a way to allocate the money so they won’t lose the budget next year. Not very efficient! If they are short on money either move money from another budget, or find some ways to cut some costs last minute.

I think management would improve by implementing a more agile process. What if they supplement the long term objectives with short term goals (iterations), track progress along with costs (burn down) and have the option to change or cancel the objective if the business value isn’t found.

We are a long ways away from this happening, but there is hope. In Jack Welch’s new book, Winning, he talks about changing the fixed budget culture within G.E. to an “Operations Plan” culture. The operations plan is a yearly plan that outlines goals and costs for the company with flexibility to change over time. This frees managers to make decisions that are good for the business, not just good for their bonus.

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