There was this great movie back in the early 90’s staring Bill Murray who plays a weatherman covering the annual Groundhog Day event (which is an odd tradition in the US wherein the emergence of a groundhog supposedly predicts when spring arrives early or not). He gets stuck in a snow storm and gets smitten by the lovely Andy MacDowell but turned down cold in the pursuit of her. Of course the most interesting thing about this move is that he gets stuck in some weird time warp and has the ability to re-live each day up to his pursuit of his love focus until he gets it right. Lots of laughter and hijinks ensue making for a highly entertaining and fun filled movie!
Unfortunately, the recent rise and popularity of the Agile SAFe (Scaled Agile Framework “for the enterprise”) makes me feel as though I’m like the Bill Murray character but without the ability to get it right but still feeling as though I’m stuck in a déjà vu like experience. But let me preface this by stating that I don’t want to diminish the hard work of the people who outlined this framework nor the “ideological” basis of it, which sounds pretty good on paper.
Yet I can’t help but feel as though this movement (and this isn’t the first proposal of scaling Agile… remember the “Scrum of Scrum” idea?) has many parallels with the traditional PMO/PPM model from the traditional community. When the traditional prescriptive-oriented model started getting a hold in the workforce and done with a modicum of success, people had the bright idea to try and scale it up so that the organization as a whole could start benefitting from doing standard PM practices.
But from my own anecdotal experiences as well as studies I’ve read from PMI and various other sources, this did not really work out so well. The idea was to create project center of excellences, but instead just ended up slowing people down as they got drowned in processes, governance and standardization methodologies and documents telling them how to do everything with the possible exception of tying their shoes! But in this process heavy prescriptive model, you have a framework that could at least support projects being delivered collectively in a mediocre McDonald’s like consistent way.
But let’s face it, as I’ve mentioned it on this blog some while ago, Agile is light because it assumes that your people are heavy. This means your team, project manager and some person who is acting as an ambassador for providing your well-defined and meaningful business requirements (a.k.a., the Product Onwer in Scrum lingo) are heavy duty, high skilled “can self-organize” types of people. Without kick-butt people, this whole Agile shindig will fail. And if I’m not mistaken, very few companies have a whole bunch of these types on their payroll.
So the while the idea of scaling Agile is great, in practice I think it will be super freaking hard to nearly impossible. Whatever the case may be, it’s not going to stop people from trying and creating more frameworks, training programs, consulting and certifications (Is the SAFe certification like PMI’s OPM3 certification but done faster?). As Einstein once said, “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result!”
Is this a fair assessment, or am I just being overly glib and facetious? Let me know!