Aligning agile: the return of governance

PMO & Governance
Peter Kestenholz
Founder - Projectum

There’s no such thing as an agile organization.

There’s a misconception that if all your teams are agile they are able to quickly pivot according to changes in the market or consumer demand.

In reality, that isn’t the case. A bunch of self-controlled teams with no common direction will likely be less agile and more like a bunch of flailing limbs that are going nowhere fast.

Just because you’re working agile doesn’t mean your organization is agile.

In fact, according to a poll from Gallup, only 18% of U.S. employees say their company is agile. That statistic probably doesn't change much in the rest of the world.

More and more, people are realizing the advantages of traditional development when it comes to delivering products in complex logistic ecosystems. At the same time, software remains attached to the freedom of agile working.

So, in this way, no organization can actually be agile.

Traditional methods demand time schedules far into the future while agile teams refuse to look more than a couple of sprints ahead.

However, the agile methodology will always be working inside a more controlled organizational framework.

So how do we marry the two?

The answer is governance.

Governance creates agility

Bringing back more governance doesn’t mean waterfall or tradition wins. We’re not just tossing agile in the trash. For many teams or organizations, some degree of agile methodology can make sense and create value. But only if someone holds onto the bigger picture. That’s why the organization should be hybrid.

The hybrid organization in this case means that there is no set way of working. The PMO isn’t concerned with streamlining methodologies. They create direction and alignment and then they get out of the way. Teams are allowed to organize their work in ways that make sense. The PMO is in control of governance.

Hybrid is an acknowledgment that there is more to the organization than the agile teams.

That’s why hybrid works so well. Hybrid is an acknowledgment that there is more to the organization than the agile teams. But it is also a major benefit to the organization to become aware of this. Governance in the hybrid organization lets go of the need to force a method or process on the entire organization. Instead, the PMO ensures that everyone is working towards the same goal.

The hybrid transformation

The hybrid transformation is easy – on paper at least. The hybrid transformation works best when it’s framed as freedom; allowing people to work in the ways that they prefer and make sense for their specific output.

When done right, it shouldn’t feel like a big change in the organization.

However, it’s important to acknowledge that you are combining two worlds. Projects, products, initiatives, or whatever we call them, are suddenly side by side with their own lingo and work patterns. Figuring out a commonality, like what to call things so that they make sense for more people can take some work. At the end of the day, they should all be rolled into a portfolio.

Don’t make features, create value.

Agile teams aren’t looking at market trends, they’re looking a couple of weeks ahead and then responding to immediate demand. We all know the old Ford quote “if you’d asked people what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse.” But the crux of it is still true. Customers aren’t skilled at predicting their own needs. They want more features to solve their problems rather than a better solution that they hadn’t thought of.

Don’t be like your customers. Think ahead.

In the hybrid organization, this is the role of the PMO. And the way to do that is to remove the focus from creating more features and focus on creating value.

Becoming truly hybrid will require a tool that can give the PMO insight into the progress and issues across projects and portfolios.

Tools like Power PPM can collect data from multiple systems and sources. This allows teams to choose their own process-management solutions while at the same time providing data for the PMO.

It is then the task of the PMO to use this data foundation to identify risks, potentials, and opportunities and use this as a way to guide their decision-making when it comes to investments and portfolios.

Hybrid is a volume button

Going Hybrid doesn’t mean that there’s no control over what happens in different parts of the organization. Rather, you should think of it as a volume button. Sometimes you need a bit more governance and control, e.g. in times of recession or economic insecurity. When times are good, you can adjust it, so you’re managing less.

But the PMO always has the means of collecting data so you know what’s going on. Governance isn’t here to stay. It never went away.

Need a little governance?

Why not try out our Power PPM solution? Built on the Microsoft Power Platform it integrates both agile and traditional solutions for the perfect Strategic Portfolio Management experience.

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Peter Kestenholz
Founder - Projectum

Peter Kestenholz is a successful entrepreneur and business leader with 20 years of experience from founding and growing the company Projectum. Peter is a recognized Microsoft MVP for 13 years straight, Fast Track Architect for the second year in a row the second year and a member of the Forbes Technology Council.

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