Making Sense of Agile for Management

From my very first corporate software development project, I can remember thinking that there was something profoundly wrong with the way the software projects were managed – trying to set your plan in stone at the front, then manage your work to that schedule just always seemed impossible. It was never clear what value we were getting from our estimates and schedules — they were never accurate until the end of the project, and, as a manager it seemed like inordinate amounts of time went to revising the schedule and to reseting expectations with customers.

At Salesforce.com, we’ve transitioned to Scrum in the last year. I’d dabbled with some of the Agile methodologies in previous jobs, but this is the first time I’ve been part of a complete implementation of the practices. I have to say this is also the first time I’ve ever felt that things we do for project management all make sense and really add value over the course of the project. It makes us better at shipping product.

In the process here, I’ve read several books, but the one that I have found most useful as a manager has been Lean Software Development, by Mary Poppendieck. It goes beyond the individual practices to give a framework for why Agile works and ties the framework back to examples from other companies and industries. I found that it really helped pull the big picture into focus – it helped me understand where to spend my energy during the transition to get the most of the practices.