Government Lessons in People over Process

PMI Southern Alberta Chapter

Mike Griffiths is a consultant and trainer who help organizations improve performance through shared leadership, agility and (un)common sense. He maintains the blog LeadingAnswers.com.

My first opportunity to create and run a large agile team did not start well. Having had good successes with small- to medium-sized agile teams, I was keen to unleash the benefits on a bigger scale. I was working for IBM at the time and was able to persuade my account manager to pitch the approach on one of our government projects. A clean-sheet development opportunity with a smart team and engaged business group…what could go wrong? As it turns out, plenty due to my ill-advised approach.

It was the early ’90s and we were trialing techniques that would later become the agile approach dynamic systems development method (DSDM). Taking ideas like James Martin’s rapid application development (RAD) and active user involvement from Enid Mumford’s participative design approach, we had already dramatically reduced development time and improved acceptance rates on several projects. I was convinced collocated teams with short iterations of build/feedback cycles were the future. We were all set for a big client success, and who better than the British government for good publicity! My enthusiasm was about to be tested.

I was given a full rein of the project—or as I would later realize, just enough rope to hang myself with. Having struggled to get dedicated business input on previous projects, I commandeered a large boardroom to collocate the …

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"Familiarity breeds contempt -- and children."

- Mark Twain

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