One of the biggest challenges faced by any organization is figuring out how to to cope with Agile at the Program and Portfolio level. And if you are charged with providing guidance on how to help Agile not crash headlong into your organization’s governance model, you may have taken to thinking of Sisyphus as “that lucky bastard who at least made it all the way up the hill some of the time”.
Never Fear! Help is on the way!
Johanna Rothman’s new book, Agile and Lean Program Management provides a pragmatic explanation of how to enable Agile at the Program and Portfolio level. Rothman is a seasoned and well respected expert in the Agile space but she got her start in traditional project management. This is something that pervades all of her work. She stands firmly in the Agile camp, but provides advice and guidance that offers a variety of options as well as her preferred approach as an Agile coach and thought leader.
Agile and Lean Program Management provides great coaching advice and tips for dealing with the challenge of transforming your organization. The way the book is broken down will also make it easy for you to turn to specific portions in your time of need. A great example of this is in Chapter 9 which focuses on Estimation. Rothman goes beyond the usual advice of t-shirt sizing or story points. She begins by exploring why your organization is looking for estimates in the first place and offers guidance on how to approach questioning senior leadership about what they need the estimates for in the first place. She explains the estimation discussion from the Agile side, but takes care to stay rooted in idea of helping your organization get the information it needs to make decisions. This section should be very enlightening to anyone from the traditional side of the house who is struggling with Agile estimation (at any level).
In additional to tactical advice, Agile and Lean Program Management also digs into the soft-skills that are necessary to help an organization cope with Agile and offers tips on topics like “Problems You May Encounter with Architects” and teams who are trying to multitask.
My favorite part of the book is the last few chapters because I believe that offers some of the most valuable advice for anyone working in an organization that is struggling with Agile at it scales up the food chain. Johanna Rothman offers chapters on Troubleshooting Agile Team Issues, Integrating Agile and Non-Agile Teams and What To Do if Agile and Lean are Not Right for You. This is where Rothman stands out as an thought leader / ambassador who is focused on helping those from the traditional side begin working towards a more Agile state. Without judgement she simply offers practical advice and suggestions on how to begin with a few simple steps.
Agile and Lean Program Management is available on
If you’d like to check out a recent podcast interview with Johanna Rothman on her new book and the Influential Agile Leader workshops she is doing with Gil Broza, you can find it here.
And if you’d like more on Johanna…
A few weeks ago I had a chance to interview Kamal Manglani for Projects at Work. Kamal is an Agile coach who has written a book, The Apprentice and the Project Manager, that was recently released on HappyAbout.
The book includes a narrative based in the past and the present. Stories from earlier work experiences as an apprentice mechanic and current experiences working as a technology project manager are used as a metaphor to explain some key concepts that factor into Agile and Lean.
Explaining an Agile process/framework as a call and response narrative is not a new approach, but what is unique and refreshing about Kamal's book is that in taking a practical approach to getting work done and coping with very specific situations, the author has made a choice to steer clear of promoting one method over another and just kept it to a very pragmatic, straight up approach.
If you are new to Agile and/or Lean, this book would be a great starting place to introduce some of the key concepts without drowning you in jargon and trying to sell you on having found "THE WAY".
When I interviewed Kamal we discussed the book and he mentioned that one of his goals in writing it was to provide a unique perspective on Agility that crossed the boundaries of different areas within an organization (like Quality, Security and Infrastructure) in a way that would make it easy for executives to see how Agile and Lean could help them take advantage of opportunities.
For me, as someone who has spent a lot of time working in both traditional project management and in Agile, my favorite section of this book was the chapter on Financial Health. It is great to see a book for people who lead projects include an easy to understand explanation of why it is so important to factor finance into our decision making process and how to go about doing that in a responsible manner.
You can check out the Apprentice and the Project Manager at HappyAbout.