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24 March 2010

local optimization

The other day Ted wrote a book review on The Elusive Quest for Growth. In the review Ted applied the economic principles and lessons to the project domain.  In particular he addressed the issue of local optimization, where fiefdoms can interfere with larger organisational goals.

Today Kailash also posted on the same theme.  His article is a summary and review of Conway's Law;

An organisation which designs a system will inevitably produce a design that mirrors the organisation’s communication structure

I have worked in organisations that are very mission focused and in places where it's hard to tell who's in charge, let alone what the mission is. And for that matter I have also worked at places that have one clear boss who doesn't have any apparent vision of where the organisation needs to go.

In an agile project, and in fact, in any sensibly run project the goal of the project leadership should be to clear away impediments to the team delivering value at the fastest rate they can.

So, in this context, very soon after some fundamental technical blockers are cleared for the team the next and longest challenge in anything other than an optimized organisation is going to be in aligning the stakeholders with the goals of the sponsor.

No easy task.

I mention this because when I read articles and books on scrum and similar approaches to project management this is often omitted.  This goals is not only large and hard, it also takes a lot of time (money) and emotional investment.

Given that these issues are fundamental to organisational culture and structure is it any wonder that so many projects don't achieve the goals they set out for?

Picture by MariaChily, CC @ Flickr