One could argue that Traditional Management arose from a concerted attempt by executives and directors to get reliable budget forecasts, staffing requirements, delivery date forecasts and quality commitments from development teams. They need this information to manage the company’s budget, growth, strategic direction and overall product delivery. When they don’t get this information–or don’t trust what they get– executives and directors institute rigid and often uncompromising processes on their development staff to wrest this data from their teams and to approve and steer projects.
Agile Management is the development team’s response to these top-down heavy process approaches that often do not adequately account for the messy reality within which we work. Agile-minded project managers and team leads understand that business environments change, upfront analysis often misses crucial requirements, and design isn’t done until coding is done. We know that a one-size-fits-all approach to software development fits no one. We use these points and more to convince executives and directors that we need to be in control of our own development and management processes. And we are correct in doing this.
Team leads and project managers recognize that what matters most to the end user and stakeholder is the timely delivery of useful and usable functionality. We believe that by making these people happy we will also satisfy the directors and executives. And there-in lies the disconnect.
Yes, the directors and executives do expect the timely delivery of useful and usable functionality. They do want happy stakeholders and users. But that is not all they require. As I mention above, at the higher levels of the organization budgets need to be drafted, debated and approved; big commitments need to be made and met; and employee composition and overall growth must be planned and managed. Executives and directors need their teams (agile or not) to funnel up meaningful metrics so that they can do these things. This is the gap between traditional and agile management. Each approach has its own place and level in the organization, because each approach serves a completely different purpose. And the gap between them has the potential to be larger not based on project team size but based on overall organization size.
The agile teams that will thrive in larger corporations are the ones that can learn to maintain a flexible planning and delivery process while also providing long-term (six months to a year) budget, staffing and release forecasts. This is the direction in which agile development needs to grow next. If agile management is to remain truly relevant to project managers and team leads, then we are going to have to find ways to continue doing what we do best while also reporting out, managing up, and giving the executives and directors the information and the means to truly run the company.