What makes using conventional (waterfall) project management so ludicrous for most projects, is the assumption that detailed planning could and should precede project execution. There also seems to be a general misconception that agile methods don't do pre-planning, when in fact the opposite is true.
All Agile projects include time for pre-planning. The difference is that with an agile approach you plan based on what you know and you record what you don't know. Then allow people who need to deliver to answer the question during delivery. Knowledge gained from previous stages and understanding the context better as the project unfolds work so much better.
Projects are much more about expectations than specifications. No matter how well we try to define specifications up-front, we will never be able to capture and quantify expectations upfront. Sometimes the user or the consumer needs to see something tangible before they can either accept or reject it because it either meets or doesn't meet their expectations. It is often much easier to know what you don't want than to know what you want!
Agile delivers value sooner - now or later, you choose.
Are you scared of experimentation – do you need to get it right first time?
In most, if not all, industries no amount of research and detailed planning will be enough to get it right the first time! The only approach that is workable is an empirical approach.
Our knowledge is imperfect and we do not have time to perfect it, and by the time we can proof something, it may no longer be true. Experimentation is most often the only way we can get to a workable answer quickly enough to have an impact on our market and to satisfy customers' fickle and ever-changing needs.
We often hear people saying that Agile's lack of detailed upfront planning is a very risky approach.
My response is that we don't neglect detailed planning, we just don't spend inordinate amounts of time planning things based on guesses and assumptions!
We however do, do detailed planning, but we break planning up, and only do detailed planning when it's needed, when we have real tangible data and when we are about to do something, then, and ONLY then. The reality is that we often only find out the detailed required as we progress and start to deliver on requirements (user stories), and secondly, as customers and users see what we deliver they also, all of a sudden better understand their real requirements and are better able to articulate their needs.
Agile, like Lean, is a cultural and behavioural phenomenon before anything else and in essence the changes in behaviour it advocates, work best if the leadership of the organisation understands and commits to these changes. These changes in culture are impacted quite significantly by the leadership style in the organisation.
Leaders in organisations where successful adoption of Agile occurs, show genuine interest in how employees execute their tasks, stimulate and inspire employees to develop and grow and act as coaches, teachers and enablers rather than supervisors.
The most crucial factor for Agile success in complex environments is to have the right level product owners (skills and seniority), that work for the business and not the PMO, IT, or R&D and that drive delivery in every product or service portfolio, constantly thinking about P&L, Risk and Value Creation.
The added advantage of getting this rights is that the business now owns the outcomes and projects AND change and transformation become part of doing business as usual. This is the ONLY way any organisation will survive in this new, fickle, digital world we live in, with the only certainty being uncertainty and the need to change!
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