Rolling Your Own Agile

Johanna Rothman works with companies to improve how they manage their product development--to maximize management and technical staff productivity and to improve product quality. She is the author of Manage Your Project Portfolio: Increase Your Capacity and Finish More Projects and the Jolt Productivity award-winning Manage It: Your Guide to Modern, Pragmatic Project Management. She is the author of the forthcoming Agile and Lean Program Management: Collaborating Across the Organization. See her blogs and more of her writing at jrothman.com.

Are you geographically distributed and transitioning to agile? It's time to create your own agile lifecycle. Start with the principles of agile and decide how to create an environment that works for you, your team and your context.

Imagine this scenario: you want to transition to agile, and you have a geographically dispersed team with people all over the world. You have two developers in the U.K. and two in Boston; two testers in Portland, Oregon; a product manager in Brazil; and you, the project manager, in Sweden. You are pretty sure that transitioning to agile would make a difference to your project because you’ve used agile before on a different project in a different organization. And because you are geographically distributed, you know you can’t use an agile-out-of-the-box solution. What do you do?

The Agile Approach
One approach is to start with the principles of agile and decide how to create an agile environment that works for you, your team and your context. You create your own agile lifecycle. That’s what Joakim, a Swedish project manager did. Joakim and I spoke when he was organizing the team. He asked about the iteration length. I asked if he thought the team could manage a one-week iteration. He thought not; he thought a two-iteration would be a big enough shock to their system.

Why a short iteration, such as one or two …

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