I just finished reading Agile Project Management with Scrum by Ken Schwaber. As I was reading it (and enjoying it – I find a lot to like in Scrum) I was struck at how easily Agile methodologies like Scrum or XP could fall into the trap of Micro-Management.
Wiktionary defines micromanagement as
Freedictionary.com defines it as
To direct or control in a detailed, often meddlesome manner.
Anybody been in a stand-up that felt like that? Now that Agile has "crossed the chasm" and is the popular method to use to improve software development it is likely that we will see micro management deployed in the disguise of Agile more often.
David Laribee in a recent blog post characterized Agile differently than you usually hear it – he spoke of Agile as a way you do business disconnected from the many software practices that often come to mind when Agile is referenced (TDD, Stories, XP, Continuous Integration, Stand-up, Pair Programming, etc…). All too often the software development community looks at the engineering practices that need to be implemented to be "Agile" and fail to appreciate the management practices that have to take hold. Management practices are more than stories and iterations. They are more than just involving customers in sprint planning meetings. It affects how you approach decision making, prioritization, and organizational strategy. That is one of the reasons that I am reading – Agile Management for Software Engineering – to get a better feel for the management mindset that needs to change to support Agile and what that different mindset looks like. Because if Agile’s long term answer to questions of how to manage Agilely is to point people to the XP books we’ve got problems.
Agile is no silver bullet. It takes a lot of commitment for an organization to be Agile and characterizing your organization as "Agile "before it truly is – is detrimental. In some cases misapplication can lead to micro-management and in other cases it leads to the absence of project management.
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