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Selecting Appropriate Agile Methods


Quick Summary
Screenshot Assess some key characteristics of your project team and environment, and compare them against the characteristics of several Agile methodologies to determine which is the best approach for you.


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What this is

A worksheet and guideline to help you and your project team determine whether agile is appropriate for your team, and which methods and techniques may be appropriate based on your organization, team, and project characteristics.


Why it's useful

Each project is different, and each organization is different as well. These widely varied environments introduce a wide range of challenges to teams trying to complete projects and implement agile methods. Luckily, differences in the various agile methods make some more appropriate to particular projects and environments than others, which helps to narrow the decisions some-assuming you understand those differences.

This template guides teams to appropriate agile methods based on two key project characteristics-uncertainty and complexity. These classifications are based on the experiences of a software product company, as analyzed by Todd Little. This classification is applicable to most organizations and can provide a jump forward to a team trying to determine the appropriate method to try out.


How to use it

This template is intended to guide the conversation of the entire project team surrounding the characteristics of a particular project-not just the decisions of project leaders or management. We suggest you take an approach similar to the one outlined here, in order to ensure input from every member of the team. Keep in mind that your team discussions should include the entire project team, including business and development team members.

  1. Ask team members to independently rate the project based on every criterion for Complexity and Uncertainty. You may want to distribute the checklist beforehand and have them come to the meeting with their answers filled in, or just have everyone do this at the beginning of the meeting. Whichever approach you take, this initial rating should be completed individually, without team input.
  2. As a group, compare the individual answers for each category. There will probably be several areas of overall agreement, and some that include a wide range of scores or a few scores that are outliers-widely different from the rest of the group's assessment. Take time to discuss and understand these outlying scores, as the comments raised can provide great insight into people's mindset about a project.
  3. Determine an overall team score for each category, using whatever consensus-building method works best for your group.
  4. Average the category scores for Complexity and Uncertainty to determine the final ratings and plot the project on the graph to determine what kind of project you are dealing with.
  5. Review the section "Determining Approach Based on Project Type" to decide on the initial approach the team will use. Whatever approach the team selects, follow the "by the book" version for the first couple of months until everyone gets a good feel for the appropriate application of that method.
  6. After using the selected approach for a month or two, hold a retrospective for the team to discuss whether their chosen methodology was a good fit, and whether the team should make revisions or even change approaches entirely.
About the Author

Kent J. McDonald, partner and co-founder of Accelinnova, has more than a decade of experience guiding successful projects and designing business solutions in a variety of industries, including financial services, health insurance, performance marketing, human services, non-profit, and automotive. By addressing common questions about project leadership, Kent demonstrates how agile practices can be applied in organizations, focusing on his "Words To Lead By: Collaborate; Iterate; Serve The Team; Consider Context; Practice Excellence; Reflect And Adapt; Deliver Value."

Kent has a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Engineering from Iowa State University and an MBA from Kent State University. He is co-founder, and Treasurer of the Agile Project Leadership Network, is a founder of the Agile Iowa Group, and is on the planning committee for the Agile 2007 Conference. He welcomes questions about project leadership with a focus on value at kent@kentmcdonald.com.


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