The Agile Triangle

From the Agility and Project Leadership Blog
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A contrarian and provocative blog that goes beyond the traditional over-hyped dogma of "Agile", so as to obtain true agility and project leadership through a process of philosophical reflection.

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As I’ve been studying for the PMI-ACP, I’ve been reviewing the idea of the “Agile Triangle” which is an extension of the traditional “Iron Triangle” of traditional project management.  This is an idea that was originally conceived by Agile luminary, Jim Highsmith, where he states that “many agile teams are now caught in a dilemma. On one hand they are told to be agile, flexible, and adaptable, but on the other they are told to conform to pre-planned traditional Iron Triangle framework of scope, schedule, and cost. In essence they are being told ‘be flexible in a very small box.’ Agile teams are striving to meet one set of goals and managers and executives are measuring against another set”.
 

Value – for the customer in terms of a released product or deliverable.
Quality – continuous delivery of high quality and adaptive products.
Constraints - the traditional scope, schedule, and cost.

 

Jim Highsmith suggests that Agile applied to the Iron Triangle would consists of the following end points:
Value – for the customer in terms of a released product or deliverable.
Quality – continuous delivery of high quality and adaptive products.
Constraints - the traditional scope, schedule, and cost.
Jim Highsmith suggests that Agile applied to the Iron Triangle would consists of the following end points:
  1. Value – for the customer in terms of a released product or deliverable.
  2. Quality – continuous delivery of high quality and adaptive products.
  3. Constraints - the traditional scope, schedule, and cost.

From this perspective, Agile teams should focus on releasing the project rather than getting constrained by the iron triangle.  The three end points of the iron triangle would collapse into one end point of the Agile triangle called constraints.  The other end points define the project’s goal of obtaining the value and quality of the deliverables that are of utmost importance to the stakeholders and that would require more attention.

Thus, according to Jim Highsmith, Agile teams should focus on the releasable product rather than getting constrained by the iron triangle. The three end points of the iron triangle collapse into one vertex of the Agile triangle called constraints. The other end points such as value and quality define the ultimate goals, since they are of utmost importance to the stakeholders and need more attention.

I do agree though with a blog by Rajeev Singh of “Agile Montage” that the end point of “value” could use more clarification, since as he states, “It is talking just about product/service value. It is restrictive to only customers and shareholders. How about Employee/Team Value? Or, even intermediary value focused on enhancing the core environment and sharpening the saws. For better software, we ought to think of empowerment, leadership and mentorship”.

 

He expands on the Agile triangle image by adding an intermediary and internal value to the “Value” end point:




As he states, “We just can't think at the project level anymore. We ought to start focusing on the whole organization. It is untenable to continue delivering external value without investing in internal value. The risk of not doing so is to put continuous improvement on the back burner.”

Just when I thought I had a complete grasp of the infamous “Iron Triangle” of project constraints, I run into the notion of the Agile triangle in my studies and learn something new yet again!

Posted on: May 14, 2012 10:39 PM | Permalink

Comments (2)

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Thanks for sharing

I was just doing a PMI-ACP mock exam and got the answer wrong as I "assumed" it was the same as the Iron Triangle.
Your article here has helped me understand the difference very well.
Thanks Don!

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