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Friday, May 31, 2019

Risk Management in Agile

Extending observations from one of the class I facilitated on digital project management, I was wondering how to address the impact of risk management in agile initiatives. Earlier this month, I had a family emergency and I traveled to India to meet a family member who was critically admitted to the hospital. As I discussed the medical condition of my family member with the physician, I remembered one of my earlier speeches where I had discussed the notion of of ECG waveform as the warning trigger of risk in monitoring one's health daily.

I resonated with the ECG waveform and its principles to agile approaches to project management or product development. The ECG waveform represents the heart pumping certain volume of blood every fraction of a second (varies from person to person due to many reasons). From a physiological standpoint, the P wave represents the atrial contraction pumping oxygenated blood into the ventricular chambers. The QRS wave represents the ventricular contraction denoting the rate of  blood distribution. Finally, the T wave represents the ventricular relaxation before the heart is ready for another cycle. It is therefore, no wonder, that one can think of every PQRST cycle as an iteration. The amount of blood consistently bumped represents the velocity.

Now, if this analogy true, then, we can relate to risk also in an agile iteration. When we contract work to other teams or depend on others to complete the work, the functionality of the other organs (e.g.: respiratory systems) to deliver oxygenated blood without any challenges arising from circulation is critical. It is not surprising, therefore, why project managers always relate to the risk domain when procurement domain is involved because non-delivery per contract or non-performance of contracted work leads to the risk of resource overloading.

When one doesn't take care of their personal health properly by following quality policies (such as dieting or exercise), challenges arise such as a heart attack. The same concepts apply when the team compromises on technical excellence in design or addressing quality by design principles in their workflow. The escaped defect therefore represents the heart attack or an emergency trip to the hospital.

When the team members in the team fail to work together, that leads to failure. For instance, the block within heart system causes to resistance to smooth flow. Similarly, resistance to agile practices and lack of the team's self organization introduces the risk of failure.

When the team is not self-organized or demonstrating high levels of team maturity, the scope compromises in velocity demotivates the team. Although heart is much more resilient, overwork or imbalance introduces anxiety and stress and people react differently. Similarly, lack of product vision or constant changes to iteration backlog compromises the team's ability to deliver. Many business challenges can impede the team's ability to deliver as well and become a high-performing team.

Such challenges, when go unchecked, impacts the team's ability to deliver over a longer time-frame. The emergency visits to hospital leads to a loss of trust for caretakers requiring external intervention in the form of medicines or medically recommended rest. Stakeholders can lose confidence in the team's ability to consistently deliver on the strategic product road-map when costs increase more than the benefits realized. Customer satisfaction fatigue can be seen in the voice of customer feedback and lack of adequate referrals.

In summary, I can definitely see how this simple ECG waveform that we can all relate to proves to be emphasizing how risk is pertinent to everyone's health in daily life. If every day is a project, then, every heart beat is an iteration which has the seeds of risks. The warning triggers have to be understood and appropriately managed even in an agile project.

Thoughts? Please share with me.