PRINCE2 Agile 2016
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7.4 PRINCE2 Agile behaviours

When tailoring PRINCE2 to work in an agile context a PRINCE2 project manager and the project board will need to monitor specific behaviours from the project management team and the delivery teams. These behaviours need to function smoothly for agile to operate in the most effective way. As shown in Figure 7.1, they are:

  • transparency
  • collaboration
  • rich communication
  • self-organization
  • exploration.
Figure 7.1 PRINCE2 Agile behaviours

Figure 7.1 PRINCE2 Agile behaviours

7.4.1 Transparency

The more information that is out in the open, the better this is for the agile way of working. It enables speed, clarity and engagement, even if the news is not so good.

Essential to understanding this behaviour is to realize that there is more to transparency than just visibility. The most important elements of this principle come in the form of the common agile values of honesty, trust, integrity and respect. This openness is an essential ingredient for an agile way of working.

Take a situation, for example, where it is decided to show the progress of a 3-month stage as a burn-down chart on the wall of the office. As each day passes the gap between the actual rate of progress and the planned rate keeps widening. The project team is aware of the situation and every day the team looks to close the gap by addressing the reasons for being behind (e.g. Is it extra work? Are the estimates too low?). Transparency means that everyone knows the situation and there are no surprises.

7.4.2 Collaboration

A motivated and respectful team is greater than the sum of its parts if people work together and provide cover for one another. More can be achieved this way than working in silos. Collaboration is not just internal to the team: it involves external collaboration with all stakeholders, especially the customer. Fully engaging with customers and working with them, rather than for them, will create shared understanding and ownership of goals and outputs.

An example of collaboration could be where a team is falling behind with work due to one person having difficulties with a technical problem. One person on the team is ahead of schedule on their own work, so they stop to help the colleague. The same thing happened in the previous sprint, although the roles on that occasion were reversed.

7.4.3 Rich communication

People should always use the most effective channel to communicate. Using face-to-face and/or visualization are many times faster and more effective than words on their own. A rich communication environment should be created, allowing information to pass freely in a culture of commitment and trust. There is still a need for documentation, but by using other more effective channels, it can be replaced or complemented and greatly reduced.

An example of rich communication is provided where an email thread has been circulating between three team members for over an hour about a possible design change. One of the team members decides to get the other two over to a whiteboard and discuss the point face-to-face. They agree a way forward in a matter of minutes.

7.4.4 Self-organization

The people closest to the work will usually know best how to get the job done. Therefore people should be trusted to do it. If they create a plan, then they own it and buy into it; it is far more likely to happen if they do. Self-organizing creates mutual respect. A project manager can leave a team manager to focus on product delivery, thereby making the team manager feel trusted. This principle extends far beyond the work. It includes the way the team works and the way team members behave towards one another. Although the project board is ultimately accountable for the direction of the project as a whole, the more a team is empowered at the delivery level, the more likely it is to perform well when working in an agile context and achieve the outcomes and goals of that direction.

A children’s party can be a very good example of self-organization. At the end of a party it is likely that a house will be very untidy with toys and games everywhere. Let’s say that the children have been promised a film, and that there is only a short time until the film starts. Instead of micro-managing the children, a parent lets the children know that they can all see the film if everything is put away tidily and in its right place. As a result, the house gets tidied and the children see the film.

7.4.5 Exploration

Projects are difficult, and in order to create ‘the right thing’ you need to be able to work out what ‘the right thing’ is! Frequent iteration and rapid feedback loops in any form provide an opportunity to learn. Learning helps to improve the products. However, feedback will not just happen; it needs to be sought out collaboratively – perhaps through experiments and spikes, with people such as the customer, customer representatives, other team members or stakeholders.

Definition: Experiment

An investigation into something that is carried out in a series of specific steps (which may involve research) in order to prove or disprove a theory or idea. This can be used to validate an idea or to try and improve something such as the way a team is working.

Lots of small learnings about what the customer wants accumulate over time and make a big impact overall. By continually working in loops that deliver something and create feedback, the team can go forward. The shorter these feedback loops are, the quicker progress can be made and the smaller will be the impact of any mistakes. The sooner the team solves ‘known unknowns’ and uncovers ‘unknown unknowns’, the sooner they can arrive at the right destination.

Definition: Spike/spiking

A temporary piece of work used to understand more about a given situation. It may take the form of a prototype or some research and is often used to reduce uncertainty from a technical or customer viewpoint. Experiments are similar.

For example, as an experiment, a company decided to create a website to enable customers to print digital photographs. They were surprised to find that very few photos were printed but that many people joined the website to share photos with their friends.

7.4.6 How to ...

Chapter and section references

Be transparent

Section 15.4.2, Appendix H

Collaborate

Chapter 10, in particular section 10.5.3

Communicate

Chapter 26

Self-organize

Sections 10.5.1 and 20.3.1; Appendix H

Explore

Sections 14.4.1, 20.4.2 and 25.6.1; Chapter 27

Table 7.2 Relevant agile guidance on PRINCE2 Agile behaviours

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