Agile in Large Enterprises aka Comments about “The Revenge of the PMO” by @cagan

I’m a huge fan of agile methods, values, principles and processes. This week I’ve read a great article of Marty Cagan backed by Jeff Patton, Ron Jeffries and Ken Schwaber which I need to share and comment, because it resonates that much with my experiences of working in a large enterprise.

I’d like to highlight and comment to several paragraphs only.

Many stakeholders were not comfortable turning over responsibility to the product teams, especially when they had ill-equipped “product owners” that were more about the process and the backlog, and much less about the deep knowledge of customers, data, business and industry necessary to enable the team to effectively solve hard problems in ways that worked for the business.

This is true, as in traditionaly hierarchical positioned enterprises, there are to many managers and less empowered product owners and teams.

…stakeholders still provide the teams with roadmaps of what features and projects the stakeholders think best. Even though the teams use Agile methods, the teams are not empowered and accountable in the sense I’m describing. They are there to implement.

Big truth. The assumption is that teams are there to implement: product owner writing user stories and maintain roadmaps, developers just coding, testers just testing, designer doing designs and concepter doing concepts – everybody seperated in there silos, even when working in a cross-functional team. The fear of managers that people might not know what their staff is working or contributing and having slack time. One of the worst things I’ve experiences are comittees. Too many people fighting for their interests to facilitate mediocre product solutions instead of empowering the product owner and the team to solve customer problems. Marty Cagan explained this in depth in his latest book Inspired.

PMO & Project Management & SAFe

In some companies the PMO jobs were actually eliminated, but in others they were largely pushed aside from the software efforts and relegated to things like orchestrating moves from one building to another.

But they have returned.

Or are still in place depending of the maturity of agile methodology, company and hierarchy size. Even the agile framework SAFe accelerate those structures. For me SAFe is one of the reasons why agile “works” in large enterprises. Read more about SAFe failures in the Twitter thread of John Cutler:

All this reminds me a lot of this quote:

“A bad system will beat a good person every time.”
– W. Edwards Deming

The biggest challenge still is the huge amount of people who are there and used to the mentality of a Taylorism system thinking. This resonates good with Larman’s Laws of Organizational Behavior.

The bias and ways out of religious thinking

I will also admit to a strong bias.

I also admit my strong bias based on my experiences and knwoledge. I’ve experienced and participated an agile transition in a SMB company. Dan North shared great thoughts about “SWARMing: Scaling Without A Religious Methodology“.

The interest and curiosity in change while adding high value to a new product brought me to where I am today and I’m thankful for all the experiences I’ve made so far. I still feel the hope of change as there are some good examples out there. I highly recommend reading “Complexitools” by Niels Pfläging as he points out solutions and attitudes to leave the trap by “flipping” directly.

My hope and dream still is to convince people about the good of agile thinking – the enthusiasm for people and business. Be a good example. Treat others like you’d like to be treated. Be kind.

What do you think about this? Different experiences and opinions?

Many thanks for your inspirations Marty Cagan, Jeff Patton, Ron Jeffries, Ken Schwaber, John Cutler, Craig Larman, Dan North and Niels Pfläging.

All the best,

P.S.: Don’t miss reading Scaling Agile FAQ as an update from Marty Cagan based on the reactions of his initial post – worth reading.

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