Interview with Daniel Gagnon, the Speaker of 16th International Congress of PMI Poland Chapter, conducted by Kornelia Trzęsowska.
Could you please describe to our readers what is the Disciplined Agile for you?
For me, DA has always been a powerful tool that teams and organizations can use to find ways of working that respect their local culture and context – and therefore stand a much better chance of enabling progress and improvement than one-size-fits-all approaches.
Could you please name the main differences between DA and pure Agile methodology?
That’s easy – DA is not a methodology, it is a philosophy (or mindset if you prefer).
What biggest advantages of Disciplined Agile do you observe in practice?
The slow but steady fostering of agency – that is, people, owning their decisions – and critical thinking that occurs when you break away from prescriptive approaches and accept that whatever feels appropriate at the present time, for the present context, can be a good way to go without feeling guilty about somehow not living up to some ideal of “Agile perfection”.
In your experience, how often do you see a hybrid Agile approach, when one particular framework is not enough or doesn’t fulfill team or project needs?
In reality, my experience has been that so-called hybrid is the case 100% of the time, but not everyone is willing to admit this to themselves! For example, it has been at least 10 years since I have seen a project run “100% waterfall”. There is always some bit of work somewhere where people have taken it upon themselves to find ways of doing things that reflect their reality, even if it doesn’t fully fit the organization’s espoused, governance model. Nor have I ever really seen anything that I would qualify as some sort of agile exemplar, everything running smoothly by the standards of one framework or another – there are always compromises, and admitting that and embracing rather than fighting it is very liberating. DA’s Pragmatism principle is all about this notion of nothing being “pure” – purity of approach is not a helpful goal.
How in your opinion Agile impacts other teams, which are not IT-related? Have you seen other teams than IT using Agile?
This question goes to the very heart of why, almost three decades in, agility has by and large not lived up to its profound transformational promise: the circumference of the impact has been limited to IT for far too long. We have only really been hearing about enterprise, business or (my favourite) organizational agility since around 2011-2012, and only really intensely in the past 4 to 5 years. This being said, I have worked in agile ways with corporate teams as diverse as HR, Finance, Marketing, Audit, Governance, Sales and Procurement, to name a few. Basically, agility needs to be an all-team, all-division, no exclusions sport in order to truly deliver the sort of benefits it has been promising.
How to leverage the Disciplined Agile Toolkit for organizational agility?
By going beyond IT at the earliest opportunity – i.e., yesterday – and working with interested parties in all other parts of the organization on small experiments that will move collaboration forward in a transparent and coordinated way.
Are there any special tips on how to coach the team in the Disciplined Agile philosophy?
You need to allow – no, more than that, help – people to realize for themselves that it is safe to think beyond the frameworks, safe to question the status quo as well, and prepare them to feel that their ideas and contributions are not only respected but considered worthwhile even if not implemented immediately.
How about the clients? What’s their role in the DA?
Their role is the most important of all. Clients need to have the courage to not simply succumb to whatever is hot on the market and order 40 truckloads of ACME brand agility and hit install. Nor to fall into the other easy way out of hiring one of the big worldwide consulting firms and saying “agilize us”. I have seen both of these approaches time and time again and while they can produce results, those results are limited because it is the change brought into the organization from without. It is change done to your people, robbing them of agency and purpose. Someone somewhere has to have the organizational and managerial courage to say “we’re smart enough to do this ourselves, with a little bit of help”. DA is a great way to go in this scenario.
What do you think about Disciplined Agile being now an important part of PMI and its potential?
The PMI’s worldwide reach, resources and reputation have put DA on the map in a manner that would have taken tremendously longer otherwise. It now behooves them to continue to develop this asset in a direction that does not stray from the agnostic, context-driven, fundamental simplicity of the approach. So far, so good.
Apart from the DA topic, what do you perceive as the biggest challenges in project management nowadays?
The biggest challenge in project management now is how to move towards a more explicit product approach. My bank’s mobile app for example is not a project, is it a constantly evolving platform. Treating it as simply the locus of a series of start and end projects misses myriad opportunities to keep people focused on long-term business capabilities and customer empowering features.
Do you have any prediction of how project management will evaluate in the near future?
There will always be a role for projects as defined by the PMI, in all spheres of activity. Building a bridge over a river may be described as being part of a larger program of infrastructure development, but the bridge itself remains a clear example of a project. And this applies to all industries. I think that what we need to see happening has already begun – organizations of all types and sizes are hopefully going to get better at deciding what type of approach is best suited for the specific outcomes that they need to achieve. Is this a classic project? An initiative within an ongoing platform development context? A small part of a program? It boils down to two more DA principles – Choice is Good, and Context Counts.
Daniel is an organizational agility advisor, coach, and trainer with close to three decades of diversified project management and IT experience. For the past ten years, he has specialized in spreading the values and principles of the agile movement, mostly within large organizations. He is one of two Disciplined Agile Fellows in the world and has trained hundreds of practitioners on the DA toolkit. His agile consulting and training engagements over the past 11 years have been with clients from the financial sector as well as public utilities and government entities. He has coached at all levels, from executives to teams, as well as diverse roles. Daniel describes himself as a passionate catalyst leader and ethical disruptor.
[ENG] Project Manager based in Wrocław and fascinated by the IT industry and Agile management approach. She considers effective communication and openness to others to be her greatest strengths. Creativity is her second name and if not management – she would probably become a journalist. She is fluent in German, loves this language and culture, and therefore enjoys most working with clients from German speaking countries. After work, she recharges her inner batteries thanks to creative activities such as writing, painting or photography and reading about psychology. She has been active as a volunteer for several NGOs for a long time.
[PL] Pochodzi z Wrocławia i pracuje jako Project Manager w IT, co bardzo lubi – branża ta codziennie zaskakuje ją nowymi wyzwaniami. Dodatkowo dużo przyjemności sprawiają jej kreatywne i artystyczne zajęcia – od zawsze lubi pisać, a jej dziecięcym marzeniem była praca w gazecie. Strefa PMI jest dla niej przestrzenią, która pozwala łączyć różne pasje w jednym miejscu oraz być na bieżąco z PMowym światem. Czynnie wspiera wrocławski oddział PMI.