Tuesday, March 14, 2006

More Donna

Donna Fitzgerald, in her Cutter Report on Principle-Centered Agile Project Portfolio Management, states 5 principles to “provide a balanced forces that [will] allow the system to reach equilibrium.” Equilibrium on the Chaordic edge – as Dee Hock introduces it – maximizes the ability to holistically manage change in an organization. In past writing1, I have likened this to the ‘line’ that a rafting guide draws in a river as he/she prepares to run it with a raft full of folks. A good guide will allow the line to lean to the chaotic if the skill level of the raft permits. Equally, he will push it to the orderly when the raft is mostly novice. The goal is to keep it exciting and interesting but safe and successful. Very similar to a project manager.

The Principles that Donna suggests are: Vision, Value, People, Decision, and Results. These may be fine for demonstration purposes, but I would draw you back to Donna’s own guidance and state that rather than prescribing principles for everyone to use to balance their organizational forces, I think that we should guide people to define those principles that best defines the line their organization chooses to follow down their Vision river.

Note I am co-opting one of Donna’s principles as an input to this process. Personally, I think that the vision thing is critical for the organization. Without a vision, the organization founders. The Vision is the line down the river. A successful organization chooses a line that its team can successfully navigate, but then it also picks a line that will challenge the team and hence maximize their throughput. When you begin to establish the traits that you wish to carry on your chaordic edge, you begin to define how to challenge and measure your organization. When you use this type of language, you begin to slip into the realm of the Balanced Scorecard – a topic for later, but a critical topic none the less.

The last point I want to make on Donna’s treatise is that she gets lost in the discussion going from the Principles of Agile Project Portfolio Management (APPM) to her APPM Framework and never addresses the agile part of APPM. The primary point of agile, as we mentioned way up above, is that it deals with change. The problem with the framework, inherently static as she describes it, is that change immediately makes it obsolete.

Donna also brings in the Scorecard as a means to measure progress and performance. My chief criticism of the Scorecard and all of its billions in Enterprise Applications Software from the likes of SAP and Oracle, is that it too is static. It is inherently difficult and time consuming to change so updates are rare and when goals or objectives or vision changes, the scorecard becomes obsolete. Further, people are continued to be measured against metrics that no longer are applicable and so behavior is directed in ways that become contrary to the corporations new goals. So when the objectives change because the business needs them to, the framework must be flexible enough to accommodate this and the metric management systems dynamic enough to follow suit.

1 “Finding value in Process Adoption”, SW Engineering Australia, Aug 2002


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