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When Leadership Initiatives Conflict

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In my last post I said "conflicting leadership initiatives" was one of the factors leading to current overhead reductions at my company. Let me explain. Conflicting initiatives arise from the fact that senior managers do not want to trade off anything from the cost-performance-schedule iron triangle (low resource commitment with high payoff expectation which is to be delivered right now).

A decade ago, senior management got excited about agile methodologies. Instead of rushing out to do a complete makeover and implementation, the company started with small but safe pilot programs, and the results were promising.

Based on these early successes, agile methodologies were then mandated to several large key programs. But this agile mandate failed to account for the scalability of the results and project size, and these large programs soon ran into issues. (Our large projects have geographically dispersed teams including various tiers of sub-contractors and suppliers and the initial pilot programs did not model this type of project profile.)

Significant problems began to affect the company bottom line. And as soon as that happened, program managers dropped the agile mandate like a sack of potatoes and focused on fixing issues and steering their programs back to some level of stability.

Now we are in the middle of CMMI level 3 certification. Much money had to be diverted into fixing many of the gaps caused by the decades-long agile experiment. For instance, our program portfolio consists of a mixture of traditional waterfall, agile and even ad hoc projects that would prevent our business unit from reaching level 3--and not reaching it that level is simply not an option.


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well.. this one is just at the right time. My organization is in the middle of starting Agile. But, I feel they have taken the right step by first training the staff and the business to understand what Agile is and what are its benefits and challenges. Ours is a global org as well.. hopefully we can target right projects to follow Agile and get success from Agile it has to offer. Neal, possible for you to mention what problems you faced for dropping Agile?

I am really glad to see that my situation is not unique! It is really hard to work, assuming that there are PM heavens everywhere, except here, in my organization...

Now I feel more relaxed... :) Though we have not yet added Agile to our mess, [it] looks like [we are] heading toward it...

"low resource commitment with high payoff expectation which is to be delivered right now" - this is a real brilliant! Thank you for this! Going to frame it and hang on the wall.

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