My MSc in Business Management dissertation was entitled ‘How SME’s Assess The Adoption of E-commerce’. 40,000 words, initially gently (but painfully for me) rejected by my patient tutor in November 2002, I had three months to meet the January deadline. Fortunately, I was in furlough (out of work) at the time, so I could focus.

No time to loose, I went to the University library, eager to find something to gather information iteratively, quickly, assimilate it, mind-map it, to…just do it. Eureker, I came across a software tool via Oxford University that sought out theories, facts, quotes, links, names: bingo! Needless to say, I met the deadline and passed: using logical incrementalism & phenomenological foundation approach, based around a well known local railway/train set retailer case study, who had recently adopted e-commerce.

This agility ability to focus, work iteratively, assimilate and deliver stuck with me: why not apply this to the way we work?

At the time, the project management world was dominated by PRINCE2, set rules, set people, set delivery points but increasingly it dawned on me, that the project plan was merely an iterative snapshot. The snapshot acting as a jolt to the disjointed design teams (they) and it didn’t portray the real-time truth.  ‘They’ wanting to work to much free-r rules, having to put up with a project plan that no one other than the project team could view, because not everyone had Microsoft Project? More importantly, not everyone could understand Microsoft Project, only that delivery was either: early, ok or late.

So we just rolled everything up in Excel, on a single page and distributed this…to the relief and in some cases delight of the design teams: but it didn’t help them and it didn’t represent the immediate truth. A stationary document never does, because as we know things change…in some of the places we’ve worked: almost as quick as in Thunderbirds (for the younger folk, Google it).

The answer now of course is Agile; at the time, technology change was moving so fast that project management methodologies, just slowed the whole process down: now design teams prefer ‘frameworks’. And like any good framework, you can mix and match tools, pick and choose processes & procedures, hang on and off techniques as iteratively as you like: so long as it visibly & transparently delivers.

Toolsets like Atlassian JIRA get the information directly from the design & development team. During daily stand-ups, Scrum Masters dutifully scrutinise the content and suggest the next tasks to complete in a Sprint, whilst planning the next Sprint. Gently steering the team to the minimal viable product (MVP), that puts a shine in the eye of the Product Owner, that what s/he signed (his or her pension) up for, is actually being created. Bit by bit, iterative task by iterative task, and more importantly the working model approach is for all to see…and contribute…if authorised, so to do.

The MVP is supported by Atlassian Confluence, all the free-r MVP related text again, iteratively developed, in full view of the MVP stakeholders: nothing is hidden, and everyone authorised can edit/contribute/view…you get the picture.

Since 2002, we’ve been using Agile, Kanban and a cut down version of PRINCE2 to deliver these project & programmes: but we prefer Agile DSDM, as offering the best of both Agile (framework) & PRINCE2 (methodology). Incidentally, we can slide either way, framework or methodology, depending on how much governance is needed…in real time: that’s our well trodden and proven USP!

Fast forward to September 2020 and CV-19, remote work is rampant, how on earth would we have coped without moving to this ‘agility ability’ framework…since I believe ‘working iteratively with design teams’ is here to stay.