Sunday, August 23, 2009

High Value – Low Risk

I recently had an opportunity to participate as a panelist at a joint APLN PMI panel discussion on Agile project management.  It was a good discussion with Jesse Fewell creating an excellent post on this event.

During the course of the discussion, one of my fellow panelists suggested that when first implementing Scrum to tackle high value - high risk areas first.  This actually is in line with traditional Agile thinking where it is preferable to fail early rather than fail late.  Craig Larman, among others, have written in regards to this and I had supported this Agile line (and in many ways, I still support this line of thought … in theory).

However, in the course of this discussion I did disagree with my fellow panelist.  The key here is the context of this point is when first implementing Agile/Scrum.  As a consultant, I have seen when first introducing something new to an organization, many times there is very little, if any, room for failure.  In these cases, my recommendation is to identify high value - low risk targets and address those first.  By creating high value success early, this allows you to build creditability collateral

For a team (and organization) that is just learning a new process like Scrum, there can be confusion, nervous, and potentially resistance.  To ask a newly formed team or a team new to Scrum to implement and deliver on high value and high risk immediately compounds their unease and even further increases the risk.  If facing a high value – low risk target, the value can be just as great with a high probability of success, thus allowing the team to create a pattern of success that can help settle some of their initial fears and nerves.

Once this credibility collateral has been established and the team is performing at a high level, then as quickly as possible, shift to addressing high value – high risk work.  Hopefully at this point when the team does fail early, there will be enough credibility collateral built, along with organizational understanding of the process, to see these failings not as failings per se, but rather as a step in the process of iteratively delivering a solution.

On a side note, pictures below from this event taken from  Jesse is one of my fellow Xperts at Excella’s Agile Center of Excellence and he has been the key driver in creating some of the upcoming Agile PMI partnerships, including the PMI’s Agile Community of Practice.
PM Tools 2
PM Tools


  1. I didn't make this meeting, but the Sept APLN-DC meeting was and I will see you in the future.

    Jay Hart

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