Nov 27, 2009

Lean-Agile could've saved this company

Air-Go was a software services company that went belly up. It's former CEO reported 10 reasons it failed. When I read about it I couldn't stop wondering where that company would be nowadays had it been an lean-agile company. I identified 8 of the reasons could've been fixed doing lean-gile
1. Poor people interaction. There was too much focus on personal benefit instead of team and business benefit. Also, interaction with customer was low.
2. Lack of vision. Chartering was never done and the company had no direction.
3. Different values. Individuals and teams were not on the same page with respect to what value should be added and how to add it.
4. Lack of focus. Teams handling too many projects at the same time instead of one at a time.
5. Overestimating. No knowledge of their teams' velocities.
6. Failed often but late. Most of their projects failed and failed too late.
7. Too much planing and very little execution. BDUF!
8. Overconfidence and designing for best-case scenario. Lack of planning and incremental/iterative development.

A recipe to improve enterprise success-fail project rate

Larry Gelwix has been the head coach of the Highland HS Rugby team in Salt Lake City for 36 years. Along that time he has accumulated a 413-9 win-loss record; the most impressive any sports coach—professional or amateur—has achieved ever. Wouldn't it be fantastic if our projects had a similar success-fail rate? Some aspects of his coaching style are well in tune with some agile-lean values and principles:

• High degree of teamwork: doing collaborative work with all stakeholders within and beyond the project boundaries makes much more likely to achieve team coherence.
• Horizontal leadership: to give room for self-organization, delegation, empowerment of the team to make better decisions, and boost skill improvement amongst team members. This fades away micromanagement and a command-and-control culture.
• Setting goals: short, achievable milestones which are goals on their own right. An incremental-iterative approach to create products foments discipline, increase quality, and motivate customers to provide feedback throughout the creation of the product they want.
• Realizing potential: by trusting and empowering the team we form motivated individuals. And a motivated person is usually more productive and less prone to make mistakes.

This recipe doesn’t ensure project success, but it can help your enterprise become hyperproductive and, as a consequence, successful. As Larry said: “good decisions don’t make life easy, but they do make it easier.”