Agile Organization: Best and Worst Practices

Doug is the author of the landmark book, Extreme Project Management®: Using Leadership, Principles and Tools to Deliver Value in the Face of Volatility. He works with clients who undertake projects in very demanding environments: those settings that feature high speed, high change, high unpredictability and high stress. Doug has lived in the trenches—from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania to Beijing, China—with over 275 project teams with budgets that ranged from $25,000 to over $25 million. He is one of the founders of the Agile Leadership Network, an organization dedicated to connecting, developing and supporting great project leaders. He is known for his hard-hitting and humorous keynote speeches that address vital issues facing today’s project-based organizations. You can visit Doug at www.dougdecarlo.com.

The Dysfunctional Organization
Any organization will find itself hosting a wide range of projects, from traditional waterfall like undertakings to others that look a lot like looping squiggly lines. The question is, will the organization be a willing and gracious host, ready to meet the diverse requirements of projects with varied personalities?

In my experience, most organizations are not willing nor gracious hosts. They tend to lock into one monolithic methodology and then attempt to force feed it throughout the department, division or even enterprise wide. This can take the form of massive training programs, the creation of a project office that holds people accountable to mandated practices and procedures along with the wholesale introduction of required-to-use software tools including specified templates and workflows. I refer to the latter practice as totoolitarianism.

The one-size-fits-all approach provides only the illusion of control. Why?  Few employees actually follow the system because if they did, they would never get any real work done. They merely go through the motions doing the bare minimum to comply.

This invariably leads to a project management counterculture, one that at worst applies ad hoc approaches to get things done or at best, sneaks in a legitimate agile project management practices. And since this culture is ‘‘illegitimate,” it can’t be managed. …

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