Sep 10

Throw them a bone: let them do agile internally


Sometimes I (over)hear people talking about internally doing projects agile. It is called internal agile because the contract is fixed scope/budget and there is a functional, a technical and a graphic design. I’ve heard the “internal Scrum” variant a lot. Every aspect of the project is fixed but we have to do it agile internally because we like this way of working so much.

But the contract says everything specified has to be build.

With agile software development you don’t need to be efficient. You focus on business value. In a fixed scope and budget situation you are forced to do things efficient. Otherwise it’ll cost you money. So some aspects as ordening stories by the Product Owner and treating the scope flexible can be tricky as they tend to enlarge the scope.

And the contract says everything specified has to be build.

What I see a lot with these internal agile projects is that the team members have other expectations than the Project Manager and the customer. Teams like to work together with the customer and use new insights but can’t because the contract says everything specified has to be build. The team thinks you should adjust plans if needed but the contract says they have to finish everything specified before the deadline. And calling the Project Manager Scrum Master and the customer Product Owner won’t really help clearing things up.

If being agile is a mindset which you as a company or person want to embrace, should you really agree to a contract with no room for this? Can’t you accept the fact that this is not the way you work and don’t do it instead of forcing something inflexible to bend? Are you willing to do projects in which you can’t collaborate with a customer? Can you go back to a way of working where you do not primarily focus on business value? Can your colleagues?


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  • Ted de Koning

    Very nice post, Niels.
    If you want scrum to work the idea of agile, with a dynamic list of features, needs to be understood by the entire organisation and not just within the team.

    • Niels Talens

      Thanks Ted, 
      I agree that it will work at its best when everyone around the teams understands it. But they have to believe that is works also. And accomplishing that is even harder. 

  • The hardest part of implementing scrum or any other agile model is to convince management and people outside of the project teams. This is very strange because it is their best interest to start using it. The biggest question you can ask them is not how much they want to spend on a project but how much they would like to earn. And if they want it late or soon. That will make them think. And convince them that they will not loose control. They will gain it together with more insight and transparency. If that does not work the waterboarding is still an option

    • Niels Talens

      Hey Erwin, 
      It is also very understandable that we have to put a lot of effort in convincing people outside the teams. The agile values come from these teams and people and not from the management. That makes it a bit harder to spread. Also for us it is a big part of our lives and hard to understand sometimes that other people do not put so much effort in understanding it. That they don’t share our passion. Maybe starting with waterboarding could be a nice experiment….Just to start with 😉