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Key Challenges of Governance for Agile Projects

“Key Challenges of Governance for Agile Projects” on SmartSheet, February 21, 2020

The key challenges regarding the governance of Agile projects concern the tension between how an organization’s leaders get proper oversight of projects and how the Agile methodology works.

You should base the value and effectiveness of Agile on the degree to which company leaders (i.e., those who aren’t directly involved in projects) allow team members to make decisions and move forward on projects. Agile project leaders feel that they shouldn’t have to wait for approvals from people elsewhere in their organization. That sentiment, however, can conflict with some leadership views on oversight and monitoring. As a result of this clash of perspectives, the following issues can arise:

  • Some key leaders don’t understand how Agile is different and, therefore, don’t grant team members the appropriate level of autonomy to remain effective.
  • “One of the biggest challenges in effectively managing Agile is creating the right corporate culture and environment,” says Alan Zucker, Founding Principal of Project Management Essentials LLC with more than two decades of experience managing projects in Fortune 100 companies. “It’s not easy to create an environment where we really embrace self-managing and self-organizing teams,” he says. “It’s not easy to empower people to do things and then trust them to do them.”Zucker adds, “That’s really the cornerstone. When we’re actually able to create those environments, we unleash the creative energy of our teams. You can say that self-managed, empowered teams are great, and people will nod their heads. But, I think it’s difficult to create an environment up and down the management chain, where managers at all levels are comfortable letting their teams make mistakes and skin their knees. And, it’s difficult not to step in and say, ‘Well, you screwed up and now we’re going to do it my way.’”
  • An organization can require a level of documentation that constrains the Agile work. This is because inherent in the Agile methodology is the idea that there is a level of documentation that is not only unnecessary, but also inefficient.“The Agile methodology discourages controls that are not priority,” says Actualize Consulting’s Ballard. “It’s a waste of time to have unnecessary documentation that’s not helping your project.”
  • An organization can require excessive information on expected outputs, a prerequisite that conflicts with how Agile works. There aren’t really “expected” outputs in Agile, because the iterative work itself produces the best product. A project’s actual outputs may be different from what was expected at the beginning.