VOICES In the Trenches
Trying Agile on for Size
Jennifer Kaniecki MacNeil, PMI-ACP, PMP, is an
adviser in program management at Bechtel Plant
Machinery Inc., Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA.
FOR PROJECT MANAGERS WORKING in mature,
regulated industries such as defense or pharmaceuticals, the prospect of changing to an agile-based
approach for project delivery may seem daunting.
Project governance in these industries has achieved
a level of maturity and success with a reliance on
the traditional waterfall method.
However, the ability to demonstrate value and calculate return on
investment often lags project completion, particularly for multidiscipline and multiyear projects. Given
the increased pressures on project
teams to not just deliver value, but
to deliver it early and often, it might
be time to consider a change.
Seven years ago, when I began
working in information technol-
ogy for Bechtel Plant Machinery
Inc. in support of the Naval
Nuclear Propulsion Program,
the agile approach was often dis-
cussed but not used. However, by
introducing the basic principles of
agile, with an iterative approach
and self-organizing teams, several
of our project managers were able
to lay the foundation for change.
Because agile is a philosophy, we didn’t have
to focus on the mechanics of introducing a new
project methodology and all that it entails (e.g.,
new governance). Instead, we partnered our
project teams and project customers in order to
decompose a project into iterations, each of which
had well-de;ned value propositions. ;is change
in philosophy helped our project teams in three
Prioritizing high-value items across and within
iterations ensures the project customer and team
are aligned and working toward the same goals,
with a focus on delivering value in the near term.
Delivering at more frequent intervals enables the
project customer to have more consistent involvement with the project team and increased opportunities to provide input. With more frequent
interaction, issues can be identi;ed and resolved
earlier to lower the project risk.
Increased Team Morale
With agile, project teams are not looking down a
long project timeline toward hando;s and stages to
keep the water falling on a project. Teams realize a
sense of accomplishment with each iteration. ;ey
witness their impact on value when earlier return-on-investment calculations can be made. Con;dence in the team’s ability to deliver is increased
for not just the team but the project customer.
As iterations are completed, the successes and
challenges can be applied to future iterations to
improve the project team’s delivery capability.
Lessons learned don’t wait for project completion,
but can be incorporated throughout the project.
As teams understand what they can deliver in an
iteration, they can better estimate future iterations.
As the pressure to deliver value early and often
increases, project teams need to focus on the value
proposition as part of project planning. Incorporating agile principles, particularly focusing on an
iterative approach, enhances project delivery success and enables project teams to deliver a steady
;ow of value. PM
Even mature industries can benefit from an iterative approach.
By Jennifer Kaniecki MacNeil, PMI-ACP, PMP