Agile, Conference, Project Management
11 December 2013
Challenges of Implementing Agile Project Management
Challenges of Implementing Agile Project Management

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During the Advance Project Management for the Utility and Power Generation Industry, held in Berlin, 11-13 December 2013, using the round table discussion format, we tried to answer following questions on  agile adoption in complex utility and power generation projects.
”  Agile is not only about doing agile, but also about being agile. How do we become agile?
”  What are agile management adoption challenges? What paradigms are we breaking? What are the solutions?
”  What’s your experience in using agile in complex energy projects? Are there any specific challenges”?Can you recommend any solutions to these challenges?
 “Even projects are not agile the requirements are agile ” prone to change”
We all agreed that agile is not a methodology (under the agile umbrella we have SCRUM, DSDM, TDD, FDD and more) and agility is both: doing and being agile. Doing agile is about the practices. Being agile is about living and acting on agile values and principles.
So what’s the definition of agile? My favourite is “a disciplined discovery & delivery framework” by Ellen Gottesdiener ( if you want to learn more on agile I recommend visiting her blog) and adopting agile is about transforming the culture of a company to support the Agile mindset. In other words: agile is about creating a culture/ team environment where everyone is self-motivated to contribute to the overall success of the project – the conclusion from the first Tricity Agile community meeting.
What do we mean by agile mindset? Trust, flexibility, relationships, partnering, welcome & promote change, simplicity, transparency, collaboration, participative approach, communication, self-organisation, focus on value/outcomes, experiment and learn from mistakes, feedback, uncertainty tolerance, system value. Trust is a challenge! I really like the expression: “preferential agility“. How to communicate effectively in large teams? This question was raised and my answer was to break the team into a few smaller teams, but although natural, there’s some risk associated to it with regards to communication breakdown.
We have also agreed that a broken waterfall based project execution approach is not sufficient reason to commit to agile. Agile is not a “silver bullet” or a solution to a mission critical initiative without any background in the approach and the more mature organisation in traditional project management is the easiest agile adoption might be.
We have also discussed the 3 planning horizons: now-view , pre-view (near future) and big-view (future) ” ex: product roadmap.
Agile approaches challenge paradigms:
management focus: conformance to plan vs. response to change
culture: command & control vs. servant leadership/ collaborative
change: eliminate & control vs. welcome & promote
measuring success: task based/amount of work delivered vs. speed to value
design: big analysis/design upfront vs. speed to value
value: perfection vs. excellence – just enough
Find out your comfort level along the gradient of traditional (waterfall) and agile.
And finally we have come up with some suggestions for agile adoption in utility and power generation projects:
  • There’s some room for agility in early stages of the project
  • Might be useful in demonstration projects
  • Easier to implement in project management mature organisations with standardized traditional project management framework
  • For internal projects ” within one company (when we do the project on your own).
  • We might try to add more flexibility to the approval process ” ex. change requests are easy to approve

How far we go with agility depends on our individual mindset. Thank you very much for the participation and let’s try  more “disciplined discovery” and move more to the right side!And for those who are interested in agile contracting, the presentation from the meeting I’ve mentioned (by the Dutch guy who set up a business in Poland), including the Polish case study.

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