Mental Retooling for Agile Project Management
From Waterfall to Agile in Six Months: A Convert’s Case Study
I was frustrated. My project team was frustrated. It felt as if we were always working on the wrong things, as if we were focusing our efforts on activities that didn’t bring us any closer to our end goal—working software. We had real problems. We couldn’t seem to quit planning, analyzing, and making conjectures about what our architecture had to support, what the customer wanted most, who should make all the decisions. We were constantly arguing about everything and seemed incapable of settling on a project course that would last more than a few days.
Meanwhile, the clock was ticking. Our project sponsor was losing confidence in our ability to deliver a working product, and it seemed the project would never get off the ground. Frankly, I was sick of it all—the never-ending circuit of juggling project plans, constantly bickering with team members, and defending our lack of progress were wearing me out.
Six months later, everything was different. The once-divided project team had become a cohesive unit. We were positioned to respond quickly to the changing needs of our business partners, to make important decisions effectively, and to execute rapidly. Best of all, we had delivered working software to a production environment that we could be proud of. What had changed in those six months to make this transformation possible? Agile.
I had never paid much attention to Agile development. After all, I had been around long enough to see more than one trendy brand-name project management methodology come and go. Why would Agile be any different?
But a trusted friend suggested I try Agile—and, for once, I listened. What occurred in the six months following that conversation was one of the most mind-opening experiences I’ve ever had. This article describes how we made the transformation from waterfall to Agile and some of the lessons we learned in the process.