In the end, just like Broadway plays always deliver on opening night, APM delivers on time and to the customer's vision more reliably than any other approach for high exploration-factor projects. Given the high degree of uncertainty on many new product efforts, given the changes in technology, given the ebb and flow of staff, reliable results are still obtainable. Given all the "maybes," agile project management and development still deliver, which is a tribute to the passion, drive, persistence, and ingenuity of project team members .
When executives can articulate a product vision, agile teams deliver. When executives can establish reasonable cost and schedule boundaries, agile teams deliver. When customers and product managers can accept the consequences of their own demands on the product, agile teams deliver. When all participants can deal with the ambiguity of structure and flexibility, when they can focus on results and not activities, agile teams deliver.
Author Ed Yourdon (1999) writes about four kinds of death march projects: kamikaze, suicide, ugly, and mission impossible . Kamikaze projects are doomed from the start, but everyone agrees that the ride might be enjoyable, as in "technically interesting." On suicide projects, everyone involved, from the engineers to the project manager, knows the project will fail and that it will be miserable to work on. Threatened job loss is the only reason to work on such a project. Ugly projects are those in which the project manager is willing to sacrifice others for his own glory . Long hours and a miserable working environment are sure to ensue. Mission impossible projects are doable, barely , with luck and exceptional effort. But mission impossible projects are also usually excitingthey are high-risk, high-reward projects.
If your project falls into one of the first three categorieskamikaze, suicide, or uglyno project management process in the worldproduction, exploration, or otherwisewill help. Anyone who guarantees success for a particular process or methodology, under any conditions, for any project, is lying. Any executive who demands success, under any conditions, for any project, strangles her project team's capability. However, if your project falls in the mission impossible category, hire Tom Cruise and use agile project management and development.
APM isn't just a project management process, it is an organizational process. Agile teams won't survive in a hostile , death march environment. In a reasonable organizational environment, however, with executives and managers who understand the reality of marketplace uncertainty, agile teams will deliver more reliably than nonagile ones. They will turn the uncertainty of the marketplace and technology into the certainty of a working product.
Repeatable processes are specification based. They rely on minimal variations in both the process and the specification. Specification-based, strict change-controlled processes founder under uncertainty because when teams using repeatable processes encounter high rates of change, they fail to adapt rapidly enough.
Conversely, reliable processes work with exploration-based projects because both product and process adapt to change. But adapting to change by itself isn't sufficientover-response to change produces oscillation and chaos. The adaptations must be steered toward some goalthe product vision. Without a clear, well- articulated , continuously communicated vision, adapting to change can become a deadly spiral.
Still, the fundamental nature of new product development cannot be escapedit always involves uncertainty and risk. As the exploration factor goes up, as product teams push technology to the bleeding edge (and sometimes over it), as market forces change rapidly, no process, nor even the most brilliant team, can ensure success. Yet the right people and an agile, exploratory process offer, by far, the best chance at success. These projects are highly reliable because of the team's ability to adapt to the environment rather than follow a prescribed path .
The Agile Revolution
Guiding Principles: Customers and Products
Guiding Principles: Leadership-Collaboration Management
An Agile Project Management Model
The Envision Phase
The Speculate Phase
The Explore Phase
The Adapt and Close Phases
Building Large Adaptive Teams