Jesse Fewell, CST, PMI-ACP, PMP, is a founder of
the PMI Agile Community of Practice who participated on the core team of the Software Extension
to the PMBOK® Guide. He can be reached at
New agile teams have a signi;cant learning
curve. In fact, it takes three to ;ve iterations for
a team to get over those initial hurdles before
becoming relatively consistent. Yes, plan your
project well. But be sure you have some schedule
reserves in that plan.
Focus ;rst on reliability, then worry about
productivity: A key business bene;t of agile is the
productivity boost that comes with cross-functional,
self-organizing teams. ;at may not happen right
away, however. I’ve seen several project plans that
forecast a 20 or 25 percent increase in productivity
within the ;rst month of the project. ;is means a
solid 15 percent improvement doesn’t earn the team
members that pizza party and they end up feeling
like failures. It’s an awkward moment.
Instead, I want my new agile teams to focus on
becoming reliable and predictable. Shorter delivery cycles limit our risk and increase our focus.
;is allows us to be much more likely to deliver
on commitments. Reliable output allows me to
manage stakeholder expectations better than
ever. Only after I have that can I start pushing the
needle on productivity.
Agile requires a lot of relearning and problem-solving to achieve promised business bene;ts. Giving yourself permission to do that during a project
may make the di;erence between agile confusion
and agile con;dence. PM
You’ve read the books, you’ve gone to training,
and now you’re ready to start your ;rst agile project. But there’s one unsettling question prickling
in your mind as you start: What will the reality be,
relative to the promises people make?
To answer this question, here’s some practical
perspective about what happens after you launch
your agile journey.
Mini-waterfalls are okay: Many agile experts
emphasize the paradise of high-performing collaborators swarming over a single deliverable at a
time. But that’s the end state—it won’t happen right
away. ;e primary goal of agile approaches is to
deliver value to sponsors early and often. With that
in mind, it doesn’t matter how you do your work, as
long as you are able to deliver regular increments of
the working product. Sure, over time you will strive
to get even more aggressive. But even if you’re using
the exact same process cycle as before, slicing a
yearlong project into monthly increments of working product will improve your risk pro;le and value
curve dramatically. ;at is a great place to begin.
;e ;rst iteration is always bumpy: You’ve
assembled the dream team and provided great
training. You’ve used high-level estimation techniques like planning poker to plan out several
iterations. Despite all that, I can tell you the ;rst
iteration will not go as planned. Why? It’s the ;rst
time the new team members are working together
at length. It is the ;rst time they are working on
that particular business problem. And many times
it is the ;rst time they are working with a given
set of tools, technologies and, especially, agile
What to expect on your first agile project.
BY JESSE FEWELL, CS T, PMI;ACP, PMP, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR