Some time ago, I was asked to comment on agile project management. I think the answers might help some of you out there too. Here are my answers to the questions — updated with more recent information.
1. When I interview practitioners, I am faced with the challenge of ensuring that they have worked in Agile environments, so I can include them in my study. I came across the Nokia Test as a guideline, but I am thinking of making up my own list of questions to ask participants, based on the basic Agile Manifesto principles. What’s your take on this?
I like the Nokia test, but would apply it in a context sensitive way. For example, I’m working with a large team in a large company, and they are very Agile, applying Scrum with some XP dev practices. However, their delivery to production takes 2 months because of dependencies on external groups. I do not disqualify them because of their inability to meet the 2-6 week criterion.
My advice would be different — get them to provide a known, trusted reference who can vouch for their work. It’s simply the best way to determine how credible their work is.
Working with one of my enterprise clients and Bob Payne and George Dinwiddie; we developed the concept of an agile audition to take interviewees through an extended review of their skills. The audition includes pairing with an interviewer who can judge coding skills first-hand.
2. Complex Adaptive Systems: This is an interesting concept you and others mention in their papers. What are the origins of CAS applied to Agile? I have to explore how this might affect my analysis of data.
Sutherland and Schwaber discuss CAS in their early Scrum books, and Jim Highsmith was really big on it, especially in his early books. Now, Jim and I (I’ve discussed it personally with him) find that the discussion on CAS is not too accessible to entry level Agilists. I tend to downplay it, though I do not regret basing my book around the concepts (got to stay true to your beliefs :)).
3. Defining the scope of the term Manager: As you know there are different opinions on this. I have included Scrum Master from Scrum, Coach from XP, and other managerial titles from hybrid and self-made Agile practices. Do you think Product Owner (Scrum) and tracker (XP) should also be included?
I personally prefer the term Agile Project Manager. ScrumMaster definitely qualifies, though ScrumMasters generally do not do many things that traditional managers do, like budget management, staffing, performance management, etc.
Product Owner is good — they have to manage ROI, etc. Tracker from XP is just a tracking function, nowadays done by the team, a tool, or the ScrumMaster.
The XP Coach is a Technical Coach, so I do not generally think of them as a “manager,” but in fact many XP coaches will fulfill team management duties.