Project Management

Government Lessons in People over Process

Mike Griffiths is an experienced project manager, author and consultant who works for PMI as a subject matter expert. Before joining PMI, Mike consulted and managed innovation and technology projects throughout Europe, North and South America for 30+ years. He was co-lead for the PMBOK Guideā€”Seventh Edition, lead for the Agile Practice Guide, and contributor to the PMI-ACP and PMP exam content outlines. Outside of PMI, Mike maintains the websites www.LeadingAnswers.com about leading teams and www.PMillustrated.com, which teaches project management for visual learners.

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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