I was trying to understand what Agile is. A friend of mine suggested a youtube video that helped me grasp the basic idea. It is a legend of pig and chicken. For those who are not familiar with the story, chicken came up with the solution to feed the hungry with bacon and eggs. The pig did not feel that this solution was reasonable because in order for this to work chicken had to make a small contribution but for a pig this was a total commitment. Same thing with Agile, in order for this approach to work the team must totally commit to the project and be responsible for the outcomes on daily basis. One of the reasons Agile works is because it is flexible and all commitments are current and relevant. If someone has not dedicated him/herself to the project it shows up right away and the whole project could suffer. However, these problems can be seen immediately and mitigated in a timely fashion.
Will Agile work for everyone? This methodology could be difficult to implement in a matrix organization. The resources (people) are shared between departments, projects, and managers. People are committed only as much as their other projects will allow them. And if they had to run Agile on all of the projects they would spend all day in the scrum meetings. This could also be a challenge for larger companies that utilize any other project management processes. To convert everyone at the same time is impossible, and slow conversion might create tensions that could affect current project work.
Once I understood the idea of Agile, I started to wonder if I can implement that at my workplace. Our projects for the most part have to be delivered in a very short period of time. Majority of them are prototypes and sometimes we have to make changes on the fly. We usually meet daily internally about every project to make sure no projects are stuck. We communicate with customer on the progress of their orders. Once the project is kicked off we are committed 100% and must deliver… Wait a minute! It seems we already doing Agile and don’t even know it! It means that with a little bit of tweaking we can get even better at this. The question now what else are we doing that we don’t know we are doing?
Does your organization use Agile? And if it is how did you get there? Was it an easy change?
Here is the link to the video if you are interested: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WPoBA18Q_3g
There are a large number of different solutions for different industries and companies out there that will help any business to finish any project. There is one little thing though… they are not free, and they are not cheap. Most are geared towards big projects and require specific resources to be dedicated to run them. There are some that are not as complex and fairly simple to use, except there is always something missing. Partially because it was underdeveloped and partially because it was meant to do just one thing. And in most cases, the tools which are available are not what you need.
When I started with my company, there were only about 10 workers including myself. Today the company has expanded to three different locations and close to 100 full time employees. As the company was growing I noticed an interesting trend. Most of the projects that we’ve completed over the years were managed by the seat of our pants. Even when I thought we had plan, in the end I discovered that most of the decisions were done on the fly regardless of what the original plan was.
There are different factors that contributed to this way of operations. Most of the projects did not have a clear goal. We had an idea of what we wanted to have in the end and worked it out along the way while shaping the final objective based on the available resources and conditions that were present at the time. A lot of decisions had to be made quickly and for some of these projects the research was going to take more than the execution. There were other constraints that most small businesses encounter: lack of resources, capital, knowledge, experience and of course time.
In the end some projects worked and others failed. Those that worked served as a foundation for new projects. Those that failed served as lessons learned and what not to do scenarios. The beauty of this approach was that the costs for most of these undertakings was minimal and even though some failed the experience gained was far more valuable. As the company grew, the need for more thought out projects also grew. We started to come up with regulations and SOPs and I noticed that we used to be able to get things done a lot quicker in the past. The pace of change has slowed down. The business is still growing, and I have been pondering a few questions. Looking back, would the company been better off by utilizing standard project management tools like planning, budgeting, and reporting? Is this beginning of an end for our growth? Can the company maintain its decisions on the fly approach while using standard project management approach? Can the two coexist?