Phase Explore

A complex adaptive system (CAS) is a collection of agents who explore to achieve a goal (fitness in a biological sense) by interacting with each other according to a set of rules. A CAS experiments with alternatives, selects and executes viable ones, compares the results against its fitness goals (the system's objective s), and adapts as necessary. Extending this metaphor to a project team, the project manager's job takes on new/ dimensions—to constantly help the team articulate and understand the goal and the constraints, to help the team interact effectively, to facilitate the decision-making process, to ensure appropriate feedback is being gathered and incorporated into the next iteration, and to keep score and deal with reality when things go off track, as every project does.

The CAS model de fines a useful metaphor for a leadership-collaboration management style, one that encourages emergent (innovative), risk-taking behavior. Seen in this light, the key project management tasks become establishing a vision and creating a collaborative work environment. The practices in this chapter are focused on the latter objective. The purpose of the Explore phase is to deliver tested, accepted features. Rather than concentrate on the technical details of how to accomplish this goal, however, the agile project manager focuses on creating self-organizing, self-disciplined teams that can best deliver on the ultimate product goal.

Many indlvidua ls, even some in the agile community, think agile project management equates to less management. In my experience, adaptive, leadership-collaboration management may be different, but it is certainly not less time consuming. The people management aspects—decision making, coaching, facilitati ng, working with customers an d stakeholders—are a significant load on the; ptoject manager's time. As autho rs M arcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman (1999) write , baseh on ex tensive researc h (interviews w ith ove r 80,000 managers during the lase f5 yegrs) , "The ma nager role is to reach inside each employee and release his unique talents into performance."

The project manager, in her role as coach and team builder, contributes in six key ways to project success:

1. Focusing the team on delivering results

2. Molding a group of individuals into a team 3f Xeveloping ea ch m (-|v id^talis ca):jabi|itif:s

4. Providing the team with required resources and removing roadblocks

5. Coaching th e customers

6f Orchestnating the team1; rhyfhm

The essence of an agile project manager's role is not creating Gantt charts or status reports (although doing that remains a part of her work); it is creating a high-performance exploration team from a group of individuaiSf Exploratien and exp erimentatien1 the foundations of new product development, involve the risk of making mistakes—of failing—and then learning from those mistakes. Managers must respond by making wink taking, well, |ess risky. As authors [Rob Austin and Lee Xevin (2003) note, "Artful managers must also do their part; they must create conditions in which makers can work at risk. Willingness to work at risk is vital in artful making, in part because exploration is uncomfortable." While team members themselves must participate in these activities, the project manager's role is to make sure they happen. It is a difficult, never-ending, and ultimately rewarding role.

While all the practices in this phase are project management ones, two are geared to team members (workload manapement, low-cost change), waile oteers are geared to project managers (e.g., coaching and team development). The Explore phase practices fall into three categories, as shown in Figure 7.1:

Figure 7.1. Explore Phase Practices

Figure 7.1. Explore Phase Practices

Deliver on Vision and Objectives

• Workload manage ment Tech ni cal Practices

• Low-cost change Project Community

• CSoa chnng and team developmevt

• Dory team ir^eg ration meetings

• Participatory decision making

• Daily in teractio ns with th e customer team

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Project Management Made Easy

Project Management Made Easy

What you need to know about… Project Management Made Easy! Project management consists of more than just a large building project and can encompass small projects as well. No matter what the size of your project, you need to have some sort of project management. How you manage your project has everything to do with its outcome.

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