Want To Be Agile? Stop Doing “Projects.”

On Feb 9, 2013, at 9:57 PM, someone wrote:

Now….did you agree that there is ‘some stuff’ that needs to be done before sprinting?

No, I didn’t agree with that. Give me a product vision, a small cross-functional self-organizing team, a team room, some Post It notes, and a MacBook and we’ll get you some kind of working, tested product in two weeks. Actually we can borrow the Post Its and MacBook from somewhere. The other stuff (a fully-refined Product Backlog, complete environment set up, release plan, budget projections, market analysis, etc.) is nice to have, but not essential to start learning through empirical feedback. This is true even for “big” products — we’ll learn more about how many teams we might eventually need by starting with one team. Start small does not equal end small, though it’s also possible we’ll learn our one good team in one room gets more done than 20 mediocre geographically dispersed teams would have anyway.

This is unconventional, probably offends PMBOK* enthusiasts. The organizations that learn it sooner will be the quicker ones to discover their users’ real needs.

The organization may say it needs all kinds of project initiation activities, to accommodate people’s comfort, just as my daughter may need me to check under her bed for monsters.** So as a practical matter we may need to appease those people. This doesn’t mean there really were monsters under the bed.

“Project” and “project execution” are 20th Century concepts, perhaps useful for building skyscrapers and stuff with huge startup costs and exponential cost of change curves. But an impediment when it comes to Agile product development.


* The “Guide to the Project Manager’s Body of Knowledge” is a compendium of obsolete management techniques, updated every year by the Project Management Institute with more obsolete techniques.  Agilists know there are really only two misconceptions in “Project Management”: projects, and management.

** Hypothetical analogy. She doesn’t actually have me do this.

One thought on “Want To Be Agile? Stop Doing “Projects.”

  1. pixie

    Thank you for your highly intellectual and informative discussion on why Agile is superior to ‘traditional’ project management for every implementation of change across all industry sectors – I found your examples very useful……

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