Following up our series “The 10 Things I’ve Learned as a Project Manager”, we will next be exploring the principles of Disciplined Agile. This is a very timely subject as the Disciplined Agile framework increases in visibility and demand for those organizations seeking to realize greater benefits from their Agile implementations.

In traditional product management, the focus is often on whether the deliverables conform to specifications as stated in some type of documentation. The desire is to describe the characteristics and attributes of the product as clearly as possible in order to remove doubt or uncertainty as to what is required. Rigorous reviews and approvals can be included to ensure the documentation fully describes the solution and there is little risk of proceeding with the deliverables.

Although this approach is entirely reasonable given the type of deliverable (for example, you would hope an architect would be very clear about load bearing specs on a skyscraper or bridge before the team pours the footings in the foundation), it doesn’t fit so well when the customer doesn’t have a clear understanding of what they need. Maybe you’ve heard, “I’ll know it when I see it”. This is an indication our project delivery approach will be best served by applying Agile methods.

Agile requires a different mindset, one of flexibility and adaptability to your project situation. In order to be efficient, we need to distribute decision making to the project team as they work directly with the customer. This requires removing barriers to work, and the management of the organization to adopt a more serving than directing role. However, distributing the decision making and being flexible doesn’t mean a lack of organizational discipline, in order to achieve a high degree of effectiveness and efficiency it could easily be argued it takes more.

This is where Disciplined Agile brings value, in creating a decision framework to help guide the team and organization to the right project delivery path. Once we have that, we can then gain a clear understanding of the practices that will be employed, which aids alignment and communications, two of the greatest challenges in Agile.

Let’s take a quick look of the seven principles of Disciplined Agile, each of which will be treated in greater detail in the coming weeks.

Delight Customers: We all like to be served in a way that surpasses our expectations. Whether it be through the simplicity of the design, an attention to detail, evidence of a thorough understanding of the need or simply a timely communication it takes a concerted effort to show the customer something they did not expect. That reaction of “WOW!”

Be Awesome: In order to for our deliverables to be of a high quality it requires an awesome team. More specifically, a high performing team. The best performers are those that elevate the other team members technically, relationally, organizationally and as leaders.

Pragmatism: We live in an imperfect world. That is not a shocking statement, but in order to be effective as teams we adapt to what is in our control. Whether that is with the team members we’re working with or through the tools and other resources provided we optimize what we have in order to deliver as effectively and efficiently as possible.

Context Counts: The most ineffective organizations are those that attempt to implement one set of rules and controls for all projects. This is impossible to accomplish, simply because one of the key definitions of a project is that it is a “unique endeavor”. And it is delivered through unique organizations, teams and individuals.

Choice is Good: Too many times organizations search for the one true set of best practices that fit every situation they encounter. It’s as if this is a quest for the holy grail of operational effectiveness. One problem with that – organizations live between predictability and chaos. There are many factors the organization cannot control that require us to understand there are many good practices, not one set of best practices to follow.

Optimize Flow: Most organizations are at least familiar with the principles of Lean and Agile. The underpinning of these concepts lies in the learning that is required to deliver more effectively and efficiently. All the aspects of these methodologies extend from how the organization, team and individuals learn and thus eliminate waste and connect the dots.

Enterprise Awareness: Possibly one of the most important aspects of Disciplined Agile as compared to other Agile frameworks is the principle to ensure there is collaboration across teams. Yes, we want to decentralize decision making, but the best decisions are made within the context of how that decision impacts the enterprise.

We look forward to sharing these principles in more detail in the coming weeks, stay tuned and follow us on our LinkedIn, YouTube and Website for more!