What causes Product Managers to become disorientated?

Agile development gives the software product manager a good sense of orientation. Therefore it’s no surprise that when the development team steps away from using scrum or their preferred agile techniques things get a little disorientated.  I've observed this on two occasions over the past few years.

Totally moving away from scrum/agile
The first time was in the summer of 2007 when we where planning a major redesign of a B2B website. It was decided to take advantage of the redesign and upgrade our technology at the same time – in fact it was deemed pretty much a 'must have'. The development team had to carry out a number of research tasks and experiments on moving from .Net 1.1 to 3.5 and also on how to best build a reclassifying engine to automatically reclassify all the legacy content (some 50,000 articles) and then every new article that the editorial team would create from that point onwards. In hindsight it was a big mistake to allow the research to go ahead with out formally sizing and scoping it in pre-sprint planning. I had no way of knowing how things where progressing and when the research would come to an end.  XP identifies time boxed research as spikes .   

Partially moving away from scrum/agile
The second deviation from scrum occurred this year. At the beginning of 2008 we implemented a radical restructure that effected product management, test analyst and developers. The newly formed team had inherited a newly implemented platform, moved to a new floor and adopted new tools. Initially the new floor did not have the multitude of white boards that our previous floor had. This brought about a lack of visibility. Previously I could walk past half a dozen white boards and get a really good idea on the progress of four scrum teams with in my portfolio of products by looking at the list of impediments, the location of sprint tasks on the white boards and most of all the updated burn down charts.

Lesson Learnt
Irrespective of the work being carried out ensure you stick to your scrum cycle, estimate each task and keep track of progress using burn down charts. Failure to do so could cause you to become disorientated.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting post. Not sure if its about PM's being disoriented, to me its more about how certain Agile initiatives work in non-Agile fashion by excluding members of the team.

    The biggest excuse I hear for that is "its all backend technical server refactoring stuff and does not really need PM or QA or Doc involvement". Most organizations realize the folly of such initiatives and often comeback to the "team" needs to be involved in everything "agile" approach.