Agile By Necessity

Andy Jordan is President of Roffensian Consulting S.A., a Roatan, Honduras-based management consulting firm with a comprehensive project management practice. Andy always appreciates feedback and discussion on the issues raised in his articles and can be reached at andy.jordan@roffensian.com. Andy's new book Risk Management for Project Driven Organizations is now available.

We don’t tend to think of Agile as a risk mitigation approach to projects, but in many ways that is what it is — when the solution is unclear, or the requirements are difficult to define at the outset, we reduce the risk of getting those requirements wrong by using an approach that builds flexibility into the process.

Traditional project management focuses on building a plan and then executing that plan as effectively and efficiently as possible. While variances from the plan are expected, there is a focus on trying to minimize those variances and recover from them as quickly as can be achieved. However, there’s a fundamental problem with that approach; it presupposes that the plan is reasonably accurate and that any variations are likely to be relatively minor. What happens if the plan is completely unrealistic from the start?

The easy answer to that question is to suggest it’s a case of bad planning and that there needs to be more work put in to developing a realistic plan. Sometimes that’s true, but sometimes plans change for reasons completely beyond the team’s control. Let’s consider situations where risks become real that could not reasonably have been managed for. A recent example is the series of hurricanes that hit the Caribbean and a number of states in the U.S. this year. While hurricanes are a reality of living in …

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