Agile, SLIDE21 Blog

Attention PSPC and IBM: 5 Ways To Rescue Phoenix

Sooooo….another $137,000,000 spent….

How is everyone feeling in Miramichi?  Are your pensioners getting their funds on time? Did the new dad in rural PEI get the correct amount in his Christmas pay cheque so he could afford to drive an hour every day to visit his wife and premature twins in the hospital in Charlottetown?  Did the single mom with four kids under five receive her spousal support on time?

Now listen up.

This is a big old hot mess.  The project needs structure. It needs solutions.  Everybody needs a truckload of linen to wipe the egg off your face.  

You.  Need. Agile.

Agile has this cool Little Engine That Could which we here at SLIDE21 happen to love called Scrum.  Scrum can be your salvation, should you choose to accept it. Here’s why.


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Large Projects

In addition to its standard nineteen core processes, three additional processes allow for scaling to very large projects.  In any industry. With any kind of deliverable. These three additions address coordination and synchronization needs specific to large-scale, complex undertakings.  Those responsible for maximizing business value (called Product Owners) and the Scrum teams are brought together in a pre-planned system of effort. Release is planned and prepared for, with special checks and balances to find and correct errors along the way.  (If, by the way, Scrum isn’t your thing, DSDM, SAFe are other alternatives, and there’s plenty more where that came from).

Empirical Process  Control

Decisions are made based on what is happening, what you can observe, what you learn through experimentation.  If something isn’t working, try, I dunno, NOT doing it? Full transparency ensures that everything that is happening is known to everyone. Placing all documentation into black hole of content management systems like Jira or SharePoint is not the answer either.   A simple Scrum board with Post-It notes, where everyone can access and supply information so it flows freely, is just fine.

Inspection, at a disciplined interval, with the right stakeholders, of the right product component, allow errors and successes to be fully transparent.  Adaptation is a fluid acceptance of change as it becomes required.  So, for instance, when IBM recommended in 2015 that the rollout be delayed because of problems, maybe you should have, I dunno, listened?  Adapted? Our best guess at SLIDE21 is that many of those original problems are either still happening or were never identified properly in the first place.


Scrum projects often wind up with results that are greater than the sum of their parts.  The scope is vast and endless. But Scrum rigorously defends its borders with time and money.  To accomplish this, work periods are broken down into small parts known as Sprints, which are usually, but not always, two weeks long.  The essential thing to understand is this: the higher the stakes, the greater the risk, the shorter the sprint . With time broken down into smaller chunks, the work is, too.  This is good for morale and good for business value-driven delivery. Ergo, if the world (or your computer code) blows up, you only have two weeks to walk back, and time ahead of you to fix it. Furthermore, since money is not be messed with, decisions that cost money simply can’t be made, and decisions to save it, like, having PSPC do its own training, don’t have to be made, either.

Risk Management

In Scrumland, we understand risk as “an uncertain event that can affect the objectives of a project and may contribute to a success or failure” (S.B.O.K., p.118).  Risk management is an art and science all its own, and an essential strategy for a good return on any investment. Risk management procedures consist of identifying, assessing, prioritizing, mitigating, and communicating about risk.  Risk management is not planning for failure; it’s paving the way for success when the expected unexpecteds happen to your project. Any Agile project management system is are rich with risk management practices like the Daily Standup. This is an opportunity, every business day, to learn about, mitigate, and manage risk. What a novel idea.  With transparency and adaptation, without bureaucracy, surely this isn’t too much to ask?


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Definition of Done

How do you know you’re done?  You’re not done when you feel like it, when your deadlines for fixing problems have come and gone (2016 much?) or when your government, which was blamed for a large part of what went wrong, is no longer the majority.  The Definition of Done, established by what we call Done Criteria, is transparent, agreed-upon by all interested parties, and may relate to quality assurance testing and documentation.  Most importantly, the stakeholders are SATISFIED with what you have produced.  Unless and until they are, you ain’t finished.Review what is done every 2 weeks with the right stakeholders, don’t change the goal posts, fix along the way, and you’ll be thunderstruck at how easy done can be!

Guess what?  Throwing money at this won’t work.  If money was all that was needed, the excess of 2 billion dollars you have spent trying to wrestle this thing under control would have fixed it, invented a cure to several diseases, and bought a series of islands in the south Pacific.

Time isn’t what you need, either.  The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.  Have you changed what you’re doing? Or are you just engaged in complex and expensive damage control, and by the way opening another pay centre in Gatineau?  How’s that working?

Stop.  Look. And listen.  Carefully.

What is needed here is Agile project management, named for its dexterity, its flexibility, its capacity to manage risk and handle changes and redirect if necessary.  Scrum, our Agile favourite, has an answer about how to handle documentation, about staying connected to the business justification, about whether processes and tools are more important than individuals and interactions (they’re not), and why collaboration is not only possible via servant leadership, it’s essential.  

The problems are obvious.  The solution is ready for you.  All you have to do is accept it.  Your move.


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