Project Communication: Caught in the Middle

George Dinwiddie is an independent software development coach who helps organizations, large and small, to increase the effectiveness of their software development efforts. He provides guidance over a broad range, at the organizational, process, team, interpersonal, and technical levels. He is currently crusading to break down the barriers that hinder effective collaboration between the business, the programmers, and the testers. George is a frequent speaker at Agile conferences. See his blog at

Say you’re a project manager interested in agile practices. You’ve studied up on Scrum, and you’ve introduced it in your projects. A representative from the business participates in your planning activities. You’re tracking the project progress with burndown and/or burnup charts based on evidence of working software. Everyone stands up every morning. Everything should be going well, right?

But the developers aren’t producing functionality significantly faster than they were before. The bug count seems to stay about the same. The way code is produced stays about the same. Your executives keep asking for progress reports, sometimes daily. You’ve got their attention, and they want to see results. Giving them velocity numbers and story points seems to double the questions and halve the understanding. You’re the manager, but you’ve managed to be caught in the middle…

Managing Downward
Achieving technical excellence using agile software development practices, continuous integration, behavior-driven development, paired programming and the like is pretty much a solved problem. You can find lots of first-hand accounts on the web from people who are putting such practices to good use and finding lots of value. Some describe evolutionary adaptations of such practices and the benefits they reap. Free and open source tools …

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