When it works, dink with it until it doesn’t (agile)

I have been reading some Twitter and LinkedIn post from numerous, but especially Mario Lucero, about multiple product owners, and product owners and scrum masters with multiple projects and the like.  I have not seen any studies on this, but experience tells me a significant obstacle to project success is the diffusion of the available talent.  This is not just an agile obstacle to success, but from my perspective a significant source of failure in conventional projects.  In the organizations endeavor to do more with less, we put our people and our projects at risk.  We thrust project loads on team members so we do not have to say “not now to our product sponsors or stakeholders”.

One of the failure modes is demonstrated below[1].



This is not the only failure mode we can see.  For example, project managers, line managers and executives that are working to maximize the amount of output from their respective areas push ever higher expected output or volume of work while not improving efficiency nor adding head count.  That is not so much a problem if the content were contiguous, but when the tasks or objectives are disparate we find the multiple projects that people carry can become serious distraction and add risk to success.  Experience suggests this to be a significant source of failure in conventional projects.

Project managers or scrum masters that do not contest situations in which the talent is spread thin, are just as culpable. Rather than work to ensure the highest probability of success, the choice is to go along with the organizations diffusion of the talent.  This is not a fix.

Are we not making the agile methods the new conventional when we adopt the bad habits of diffusion of the available talent across too many projects? This is not solely a conventional project phenomenon and we run the risk of diluting this benefit that comes with employing an agile approach.


[1] http://4pm.com/project-failure/ last accessed Oct 29, 2015

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